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INTRODUCTION:

1.   Today we want to have somewhat of an in-depth study on the subject of giving financial to God’s work.

2.   Our special contribution opportunity is coming up soon, and this seems a very good time to study a very important subject.

3.   Frankly, the subject may be a sensitive one for a number of us.

4.   Our sensitivity may be due to what we have observed on TV about money raisers (televangelists); it may be due to what we have heard about possible inappropriate uses of money within our own movement; it may be due to a lack of biblical understanding of the subject; or it may be due to something amiss in our heart that needs changing.  (As is often stated, our heart strings and purse strings seem very connected!)

5.   While giving may be a sensitive subject to some of us, when we see what God’s Word has to say about it, we can rest assured that it is not a sensitive subject to God! 

6.   More is said about giving than about a whole host of other important topics, and while this lesson cannot be an exhaustive study, we will attempt to cover some of the key concepts in the Bible.

BODY:

I.      Tithing in the Old Testament

A.   Tithing (giving a tenth of one’s income) was a very important part of the Mosiac system in the OT – dating from about 1500 BC.

1.   Leviticus 27:30-32.

2.   Note the reason for the tithe in Numbers 18:20-21 – to support the priesthood (and we have a similar need to support ministry staff today).

3.   A careful study of tithing under the Law of Moses will show that the basic tithe was the base amount of their giving, but that additional specified offerings raised their giving level beyond that figure.

B.   The practice of tithing was much older than Moses’ Law, being apparently a part of God’s plan from the beginning.

1.   In Genesis 14:17-20, we see that the father of the faithful, Abraham, paid tithes from the spoils of battle.

2.   In Genesis 28:20-22, we find the Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes, vowing to pay tithes of everything that he received from the hand of God.

C.   Therefore, although we are not under the Mosaic system, we can see that tithing has long been a part of God’s plan.

1.   It was a subject that God took very seriously – read Malachi 3:8-12 carefully.

2.   One way to look at how the concept could have application even to our day is to reason that since the New Covenant under which we live is a far superior covenant (as the whole book of Hebrews argues), then we certainly would not want to give less than any good Jew in the OT.

3.   However, while giving 1/10th of our income might be a good starting place, it may not be the right ending place, for the Bible has much more to say about the subject.

II.    Giving To Meet Needs In the Book of Acts

A.   Look at Acts 2:44-47 and Acts 4:32-35.

1.   Note the context of these two passages:  thousands of disciples were baptized from every nation on earth, and needed to stay in Jerusalem in order to be grounded in their new faith before returning to their own lands to spread the good news.

a.    Our needs today are similar in this respect:  supporting ministry staff to take care of present needs in our congregation, and in the future, spreading out to other parts of Phoenix and to Arizona.

b.    The support and training of ministry staff is always going to be a very important reason for our giving (though certainly not the only one).

B.   However, meeting needs must go far beyond the training of staff.

1.   It is focused on meeting evangelistic needs is a number of ways.

2.   It is also aimed at meeting the physical and emotional needs of those of our own number, and additionally at meeting these same needs of the poor and less fortunate than ourselves outside the church.

C.   Giving to meet various sorts of needs is common in the New Testament, and therefore is a very valid consideration – but the NT has much more to say about our giving.

III.   Giving As a Demonstration of Spirituality

A.   2 Corinthians 8 & 9 provide some of the best in-depth teaching about the connection between giving and spirituality to be found in the whole Bible.

B.   Giving money is an extension of first giving ourselves to God (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). 

1.   Note also that the people gave themselves to the leaders (verse 5) – this requires both an appreciation and trust of our leaders.

2.   Recently, the subject of restricted giving to specified areas came up in our church, and the Board of Directors has formulated a policy to guide us in that matter.

a.    Restricted giving means that we as individual givers would designate exactly where and how our contribution would be used.

b.    The essence of the policy of the Board is that our regular weekly contributions will go into our general operations budget.

c.    However, special contributions beyond our regular giving may on occasion be directed toward specified areas, based on the criteria in this policy and under the approval and oversight of the elders.

d.    The upcoming special contribution is an example of our opportunity to choose between several works and to direct our contributions into those specific areas.

3.   Biblically, leaders of the church determined the exact distribution of the contributions.

a.    Read Acts 4:34-5:2.

b.    Also in Acts 11:29-30 we read:  “The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. [30] This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.”

c.    Paul’s reassurance about how the funds would be administered is the same assurance that we offer you as leaders:  “We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. [21] For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men” (2 Corinthians 8:20-21).

C.   Giving is an act of grace on our part, and therefore giving is called a grace (2 Corinthians 8:6-7).

D.   Our giving tests the sincerity of our love and shows our imitation of Christ (2 Corinthians 8:8-9).

E.    Our willingness and desire to give is more important than the amount we actually give (2 Corinthians 8:10-12).

F.    Equality in giving means that as a family, we each do our part to the best of our ability (2 Corinthians 8:13-15).

G.   Our giving determines the amount and types of blessings that God is able to give us (2 Corinthians 9:6-15).

1.   Giving sparingly limits God’s blessings in your life, and giving generously increases his blessings in your life (verse 6).  (Note the Malachi 3:8-12 passage that we looked at earlier on this point.)

2.   Giving is a spiritual decision, and giving must be done cheerfully (verse 7).

3.   Giving generously enables God to bless us both financially and spiritually (verses 8-11).

4.   Our giving results in more and more people, inside and outside the church, giving overflowing praise to God (verses 9-15).

IV.The Ultimate Goal of Giving Is Stewardship and Sacrifice

A.   Stewardship is our safeguard again materialism and greed (Luke 14:25-33).

1.   In verse 33, the NASV translates it “all of your possessions.”

2.   It shows us the concept of everything belonging to God, with us being only managers of what God has given us.

3.   The “sharecropper” concept is exactly what the NT teaches us about the way that we view and use money. 

a.    The sharecropper lives on another’s land and farms it, taking for himself only what is required to live and sustain his life. 

b.    Obviously, such an arrangement would never allow for materialism and possessiveness.

c.    It is vital to understand that our view of use and money is not just a nice ideal to shoot for – the text does say cannot be my disciple.

 

 

4.   This approach makes some important lessons very obvious:

a.    Giving a tenth may or may not approach what a disciple ought to be doing.

(1)Giving $20 of a weekly income of $200 would likely be quite a sacrifice and might well represent the concept of stewardship.

(2)Giving $200 of a weekly income of $2,000 would not necessarily constitute a sacrifice or good stewardship, and could indicate that we have already fallen prey to a materialistic lifestyle.

b.    Our lifestyles should be legitimate and reasonable, rather than giving out of our abundance and then spending the rest on our luxuries.

(1)Many of us have some soul-searching to do, and some radical changing in both our attitudes and our lifestyles may be God’s call to us right now.

(2)One word of warning at this point:  deal with yourself, and fight the temptation to be the judge of everyone else – envy and jealousy can strike quickly and seriously in this area if we become judges of one another!

B.   Sacrifice in giving is determined not by how much we give, but by how much we haveleft after we give.

1.   Mark 12:41-44 – this one is full of lessons for us.

a.    One such lesson is that the widow gave her money to God and was commended for doing so, yet from a human perspective, the money was going into a corrupt Jewish system.

b.    Study the passage and meditate about this and other lessons.

2.   Where have you drawn the line in your giving?  What are you not willing to do?

                                            

CONCLUSION:

1.   Review – giving that pleases God begins with the tithe principle, progresses to meeting needs, is a demonstration of our spirituality, and must conform to Jesus’ teaching about discipleship.

2.   We have the opportunity to grow in the grace of giving, to accomplish more than ever before, and to become increasingly sacrificial and thus more like Jesus.

3.   May God help all of us to be disciples in the fullest sense of the word, especially as it relates to our giving. 

4.   Let’s give in a way that allows the church to be strengthened, the world to be evangelized, the poor to be helped, and our God to be glorified!

—Gordon Ferguson (April 2005)

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