THE GRACE OF GIVING
JUST WHAT IS TRUE CHRISTIAN GIVING……LET US CONSIDER THESE THREE POSSIBILITIES:
1. TRUE CHRISTIAN GIVING IS TITHING……TEN PERCENT OF YOUR INCOME OFF THE TOP SET ASIDE BEFORE YOU SPEND ANYTHING ELSE
2. TRUE CHRISTIAN GIVING IS SELF DENIAL…CHOOSING NOT TO SPEND ON YOURSELF SO THAT YOU CAN PROVIDE FOR OTHERS
3. TRUE CHRISTIAN GIVING IS FUNDAMENTALY AN ACT OF LOVE TOWARD YOUR NEIGHBOR
JUST WHAT IS TRUE CHRISTIAN GIVING…….EACH OF THE ABOVE STATEMENTS CONTAINS A PARTIAL TRUTH, THE SECOND STATEMENT CONTAINS MORE TRUTH THAN THE FIRST AND THE THIRD MORE TRUTH THAN THE SECOND…..BUT EVEN THE THIRD STATEMENT IS WRONG
THEN JUST WHAT IS TRUE CHRISTAN GIVING AND WHAT IS TO MOTIVATE THAT GIVING
THE SCRIPTURE FOR THIS MESSAGE COMES FROM:
1 Cor. 16:2…..Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him that there be no gatherings when I come.
2 Cor. 9: 6-7….But this I say, he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
NOW WE CAN SEE FROM THE SCRIPTURES GIVEN WHAT PAUL DOES NOT SAY……HE DOESN’T SAY….TO BE A GOOD CHRISTIAN YOU MUST GIVE TEN PERCENT OF YOUR INCOME TO THE LOCAL CHURCH…..ANOTHER FIVE PERCENT TO INDIVIDUALS IN NEED AND ANOTHER THREE PERCENT TO THE TEN BEST TV PREACHERS THAT HAVE SENT YOU APPEALS.
PAUL DOESN’T SAY ANYTHING LIKE THAT….. PAUL IS INTENSELY PRACTICAL AND INTENSELY THEOLOGICAL……HE GROUNDS OUR GIVING IN THE GREAT TRUTHS ABOUT GOD AND MAN AND THEREFORE PROVIDES US WITH TEACHING ABOUT GOD AS WELL AS WAYS TO TEST OUR OWN GIVING AND THUS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT AND VERY MUCH MISUNDERSTOOD IN OUR DAY AND TIME……A WISE MAN HAS SAID, “WE KNOW WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE ARE BY HOW WE SPEND OR DON’T SPEND OUR MONEY”
CHARLES SPURGEON ON THE SUBJECT OF GIVING HAS THIS TO SAY:
HE WHO TRIES TO CHEAT THE LORD WILL BE QUITE READY TO CHEAT HIS FELLOWMEN
GIVING IS TRUE HAVING AS THE OLD GRAVESTONE SAID OF THE DEAD MAN….WHAT I SPENT I HAD….WHAT I SAVED I LOST….WHAT I GAVE I HAVE
WHAT A PERSON SAYS CAN VERY OFTEN TELL YOU VERY LITTLE ABOUT THEM……HOWEVER HOW WE SPEND OR DON’T SPEND OUR MONEY CAN REVEAL VERY MUCH ABOUT A PERSON’S TRUE CHARACTER
IN THE BOOK OF TIMOTHY WE READ OF THE FALSE TEACHERS WHO IMAGINE THAT GODLINESS IS A MEANS OF GAIN….THEY ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR A WAY TO USE RELIGION AND OTHER CHRISTIANS TO FILL THEIR BELLYS OR POCKETS IN SOME MANNER
NOW GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT IS A GREAT MEANS OF GAIN….FOR WE BROUGHT NOTHING INTO THE WORLD AND WE CANNOT TAKE ANYTHING OUT OF THE WORLD…..BUT IF WE HAVE FOOD AND CLOTHING WITH THESE WE WILL BE CONTENT
BUT THOSE WHO DESIRE TO BE RICH FALL INTO TEMPTATION, INTO A SNARE, INTO MANY SENSELESS AND HARMFUL DESIRES THAT PLUNGE PEOPLE INTO RUIN AND DESTRUCTION
FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL KINDS OF EVILS… IT IS THROUGH THIS CRAVING THAT SOME HAVE WANDERED AWAY FROM THE FAITH AND PIERCED THEMSELVES WITH MANY PANGS….BUT AS FOR YOU O’MAN OF GOD…..FLEE THESE THINGS, PURSUE RIGHTEOUSNESS, GODLINESS, FAITH, LOVE, STEADFASTNESS AND GENTLENESS
IN THESE PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE WE IDENTIFY THREE MONEY MYTHS:
1. MONEY WILL BRING YOU HAPPINESS……YOU HAVE AN ETERNAL SOUL THAT WILL LIVE FOREVER….THEREFORE WHATEVER WILL LEAD TO YOUR GREATEST HAPPINESS MUST GAIN ASSETS THAT WILL LAST FOREVER ALL ETERNITY…..AS A CHRISTIAN OUR GREATEST JOY IS TO BE FOUND IN CHRIST …..NOT MONEY
2. WHATEVER I HAVE IS MINE AND I DESERVE IT…..EVEN FROM A SECULAR VIEWPOINT ECONOMIST HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SHOW THIS IS TRUE ONLY TO A SMALL EXTENT AND FROM A SPIRITUAL POINT OF VIEW THE ABILITY TO EARN WEALTH COMES FROM GOD
3. MONEY WILL BRING YOU SECURITY…..MONEY AND WEALTH CAN DISAPPEAR OVERNIGHT….THERE IS NO TRUE SECURITY IN RICHES
1 Cor. 16:1-2….Now about the collection for God’s people; Do what I told the Galation churches to do. On the first day of the week each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up so that when I come no collection will have to be made.
NOW LET ME GIVE YOU AN INTERPRETATION OF THIS PASSAGE, PAUL UNDER THE INSPIRATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT SAYS:
WE WANT TO MAKE KNOWN TO YOU BROTHERS THE GRACE OF GOD GIVEN AMONG THE CHURCHES IN MACEDONIA FOR IN A SEVERE TEST OF AFFLICTION THEIR ABUNDANCE OF JOY AND THEIR DEEP POVERTY ABOUNDED TO THE WEALTH OF THEIR SINCERE CONCERN FOR OTHERS
FOR THEY GAVE ACCORDING TO THEIR ABILITY….I BEAR WITNESS EVEN BEYOND THEIR ABILITY OF THEIR OWN ACCORD WITH MUCH APPEAL
PLEADING WITH US FOR THE GRACE AND PARTNERSHIP OF SERVICE TO THE SAINTS NOT EVEN AS WE CONFIDENTLY EXPECTED BUT THEY GAVE THEMSELVES FIRST TO THE LORD AND TO US BY THE WILL OF GOD
TRUE CHRISTIAN GIVING IS NOT FUELED BY LEGALISIM NOR TRADITION NEVER IN NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE DOES PAUL SAY I WANT YOU TO TITHE YET THE MACEDONIAN CHURCHES WERE DOING MUCH MORE THAN TITHING
IF WE WERE TO FOLLOW THE LAW IN THE MATTER OF GIVING THE TITHE WOULD BE MUCH CLOSER TO THIRTY-FIVE PERCENT THAN TEN
THE CONCEPT OF TITHING HAS A ROLE TO PLAY IN HELPING NON-GIVERS TO TAKE STEPS TOWARD REGULAR GIVING…..HOWEVER THIS IS NOT THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIAN GIVING
SELF-DENIAL IS NOT THE ESSENCE OF TRUE CHRISTIAN GIVING….
CONSIDER WHAT PAUL SAYS IN 1 COR. 13:3, HERE WE HAVE A CLUE TO THE REAL POWER BEHIND CHRISTIAN GIVING
“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing
I CAN GIVE AWAY ALL MY POSSESSIONS AND STILL NOT BE A MODEL OF CHRISTIAN GIVING…….SUCH GIVING WOULD UNDOUBTEDLY BE A GREAT SACRIFICE……SUCH GIVING WOULD LOOK GOOD TO OTHERS….BUT IT DOES NOT TOUCH AT THAT WHICH IS THE HEART OF CHRISTIAN GIVING
WHAT THEN ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF TRUE CHRISTIAN GIVING….WHAT IS IT THAT IS TO LEAD US TO GIVE…..SOMETIMES WE REALIZE WE HAVE SOME EXTRA MONEY AND THINK MAYBE I SHOULD GIVE SOME OF IT AWAY
WE HEAR AN EMOTIONAL APPEAL FOR MONEY AND FEEL BAD SO WE RESPOND
OTHERTIMES SOMEONE LAYS A GUILT TRIP ON US ……SAYING YOU REALLY SHOULD GIVE IF YOU CARE AT ALL
FOR MANY GIVING IS A DUTY…..I’M SUPPOSED TO DO THIS…..FOLLOW TRADITION AND THE RULES
YET TRUE CHRISTIAN GIVING DOES NOT BEGIN WITH ABUNDANCE NOR EMOTIONAL APPEAL OR A GUILT TRIP……NOR IS IT PRIMARLY A DUTY
PAUL WRITES “We want to make known to you brothers, the grace of God given among the churches in Macedonia.
DO YOU SEE TRUE CHRISTIAN GIVING IS A GRACE OF GOD GIVEN TO THE CHILD OF GOD EXTENDING GOD’S UNMERITED FAVOR UPON OTHERS… TRUE GIVING BEGINS WITH GOD WORKING IN AND THROUGH HIS PEOPLE MAKING THEM LIKE HIM AS HE IS A LOVING AND GIVING GOD… SO A BORN AGAIN CHILD OF GOD BECOMES LIKE HIM AND AS WE BECOME LIKE CHRIST WE ARE WILLING TO GIVE FREELY OF OUR SELVES AND OF WHAT WE POSSESS
PAUL IN SPEAKING OF THE MACEDONIANS IS SAYING …..GIVING YOURSELF TO GOD IS OF GREATER IMPORTANCE …..HERE I AM LORD USE ME AND ALL I HAVE….USE ME AND MY POSSESSIONS FOR YOUR GLORY
GIVING IS THEN RELATED TO THE FIRST AND GREATEST COMMANDMENT
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength”. Mark 12:30
THE ENGINE THAT DRIVES OUR DESIRE TO GIVE IS DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO THE LOVE WE HAVE FOR CHRIST HIMSELF… HOWEVER THERE ARE SOME IN THIS WORLD WHO HAVE A DEAD CAT ON THE WIRE SOMEWHERE AND ONE OF THE DEAD CATS IS FOUND IN THE FOLLOWING ILLUSTRATION.
In the lumber camps of New England phone wires were strung out among the lumber camps and into the small local villages so they would have a means of communication. However, occasionally someone as a joke would throw something over the wires which would short out the line and it would no longer work. Thus the saying came into being, “there is a dead cat on the wire somewhere.” The same thing may be said of some individuals in their Christian walk, something interferes with their walk as a believer and they fail to gain maturity as Christians, and that something is very often some sin they are allowing in their lives.
When Pompeii was being excavated, there was found a body that had been embalmed by the ashes of Vesuvius. It was that of a woman. Her feet were turned toward the city gate, but her face was turned backward toward something that lay just beyond her outstretched hands.
The prize for which those frozen fingers were reaching was a bag of pearls. Maybe she herself had dropped them as she was fleeing for her life. Maybe she had found them where they had been dropped by another. But, be that as it may, though death was hard on her heels, and life was beckoning to her beyond the city gates, she could not shake off their spell. She turned to pick them up, with death as her reward. But it was not the eruption of Vesuvius that made her love pearls more than life. It only froze her in this attitude of greed forever.
WE ALL KNOW THE STORY OF THE GOOD SMARITAN…….THAT ONE WHO HAS NEW LIFE AND GRACE IN THEIR SOUL THAT CHRIST GIVES TO HIS OWN……THOSE WHO YIELD THEIR LIFE TO HIM COMPLETELY…..THIS LIFE WILL THEN PRODUCE A GIVING AND GENEROUS SPIRIT FULL OF LOVE MERCY AND COMPASSION FOR THOSE WHO ARE DISTRESSED AND AFFLICTED
IT IS THE DUTY OF ALL WHO PROFESS TO HAVE THE HOLY SPIRIT ABIDING WITHIN THEM TO REACH OUT TO THOSE WHO ARE AFFLICTED OR IN NEED AND NOT TO HARDEN THEIR HEARTS
But whoso hath this world’s good, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him. 1 John 3:17
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say to them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; not withstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doeth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. James 2:15-16-17
But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. James 1:22
WHEN WE YIELD OUR LIVES TO CHRIST AND BELONG TO GOD ALL WE HAVE IS HELD IN TRUST FOR OUR LORD…….A GENEROUS SPIRIT AND GIVING SHOWS OUR LOVE FOR THE LORD AS PAUL TOLD THE CORINTHIANS 9:24…Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.
In Colossians 3:5 We are told: Put to death therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature…evil desires and greed which is idolatry.
A beggar asked a millionaire, “How many more dollars would it take to make you truly happy?” The millionaire, reaching his gnarled hands…..into the beggar’s cup, replied, “Only one more”.
THE SCRIPTURES TELL US ….”WE ARE THE AROMA OF CHRIST TO GOD AMONG THOSE WHO ARE BEING SAVED….A FRAGRANCE FROM LIFE TO LIFE….WE ARE MEANT TO BE THE AGENTS OF GOD’S LOVE TO OTHERS
JESUS DIED FOR US SO THAT WE MIGHT LIVE NOT JUST FOR OURSELVES BUT FOR THE ONE WHO’S DIED AND WAS RAISED FOR US THAT WE MIGHT INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE
TRUE CHRISTIAN GIVING IS WHEN WE GIVE NOT OUT OF OUR ABUNDANCE NOR GIVE A TOKEN PERCENTAGE……BUT WHEN THE SPIRIT AND TRUTH RULE OUR LIVES AND OUR GIVING IS FUELED BY THE FACT THAT WE EAGERLY DESIRE TO BE AGENTS OF GOD’S LOVE IN THIS WORLD
JOHN PIPER HAS SAID “LOVE IS THE OVERFLOW OF JOY IN GOD….IT IS NOT DUTY FOR DUTY’S SAKE OR RIGHT FOR RIGHT’S SAKE…..IT IS NOT A RESOLUTE ABANDONING OF ONE’S OWN GOOD WITH A VIEW SOLELY TO THE GOOD OF THE OTHER PERSON
IT IS FIRST A DEEPLY SATISFYING EXPERIENCE OF THE FULLNESS OF GOD’S GRACE AND THEN A DOUBLY SATISFYING EXPERIENCE OF SHARING THAT GRACE WITH ANOTHER PERSON
THIS MESSAGE TODAY IS NOT FUNDAMENTALLY ABOUT MONEY…..IT’S ABOUT LEARNING TO GIVE AS GOD HIMSELF GIVES …..WE ALL KNOW THAT GOD CAN VERY WELL GET ALONG WITHOUT OUR MONEY….HOWEVER WE ARE CALLED UPON TO HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST TO ABIDE IN HIM AND BE LIKE HIM AND LEARNING TO HAVE A GENEROUS SPIRIT AND GIVING IS A LEARNING EXPERIENCE THAT GOD HIMSELF WISHES FOR EACH OF HIS CHILDREN
GOD GAVE THE MACEDONIANS GREAT GRACE…..HE OPENED UP FOR THEM THE VISTA OF THEIR JOY IN THE FELLOWSHIP OF SERVICE UNTO THE SAINTS……THEY GAVE THEMSELVES TO GOD AND THE APOSTLE
HAVING DONE SO HAVING ENTERED INTO THE JOY OF CHRIST THEY COULD LOVE WITH THE LOVE OF CHRIST HAVE HIS MIND AND EXPERIENCE THE JOY OF GODLY GIVING WITH A FREE AND GENEROUS SPIRIT
IT IS NO GOOD TRYING TO ACT LIKE JESUS AND TRYING TO GIVE WITHOUT FIRST GIVING YOURSELF TO GOD AND THEN HE GIVES YOU …..GIVING YOURSELF TO GOD IS A PRIORITY
GIVING TO OTHERS IS NOT THE ULTIMATE……LOVING OTHERS IS MORE FUNDAMENTAL……BUT STILL NOT THE ULTIMATE…THE ULTIMATE IS LOVING GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART MIND AND SOUL…..LOVE FOR GOD MUST COME FIRST IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
WE MUST EACH STOP AND CONSIDER FOR A MOMENT WHERE DO I STAND TODAY ON THIS MATTER…..DO I HAVE ANY DEAD CATS ON THE WIRE
THE STORY IS TOLD OF A PROSPEROUS YOUNG INVESTMENT BANKER WHO WAS DRIVING HIS NEW BMW SEDAN IN A SNOWSTORM….HE LOST CONTROL OF THE CAR IT WENT OVER A STEEP BANK AND IT ROLLED OVER AND OVER HE WAS FLUNG FREE FROM THE CAR AND ROLLED TO SAFETY YET NOT WITHOUT SERIOUS INJURY…
HIS ARM HAD BEEN RIPPED OFF AT THE SHOULDER …..A TRUCKER SEEING THE ACCIDENT RUSHED TO HELP THE MAN….HE FOUND HIM SITTING ON THE GROUND CRYING OUT OH NO MY NEW BMW….
THE TRUCKER QUICKLY CALLED FOR HELP AND TOLD THE MAN YOU HAVE GREATER PROBLEMS THEN YOUR CAR YOUR ARM IS RIPPED OFF I’LL FIND IT AND MAYBE THE SURGEONS CAN SEW IT BACK ON
THE BANKER LOOKED AT WHERE HIS ARM HAD BEEN AND THEN GROANED OH NO MY NEW ROLEX
GOD GIVES US MATERIAL POSSESSIONS SO WE WILL ENJOY THEM….NOT SO WE WILL WORSHIP THEM…..
IN THIS WORLD TODAY THERE ARE MANY WHO THINK THEIR MONEY WILL BRING THEM JOY AND HAPPINESS…….THEY THINK THEIR SECURITY IS DERIVED THROUGH MONEY AND ALL THEY HAVE GOTTEN IS THEIRS TO KEEP
YET TO KNOW TRUE JOY ENTER INTO THE JOY OF YOUR MASTER….BECOME AN AGENT OF GOD’S LOVE IN THIS DARKENED WORLD REJOICE IN GOD YOUR MAKER AND REDEEMER AND GIVE YOURSELF WHOLLY TO GOD….AND NEVER FORGET WHAT YOU GIVE YOU WILL REAP ETERNAL REWARDS… WHAT YOU HOARD YOU WILL EVENTUALLY LEAVE BEHIND.