One Sunday a pastor told his congregation that the church needed some extra money for a special mission project. He asked the people to consider putting a little extra in the offering plate. He added that whoever gave the most that day would be able to pick three hymns in the worship service. When the offering plates were brought forward the pastor glanced down and noticed that someone had written a check for $1000. Excited, he immediately shared this news with the congregation and said he would like to thank personally the person who gave such a large gift. He asked who the donor was. A shy, elderly woman sitting in the back slowly raised her hand. The pastor asked her to come to the front of the church. She stood there nervously as the pastor praised her and then he asked her to pick out three hymns. Her eyes brightened as she looked over the congregation. Pointing to the three best looking men in the building, she said, "I'll take him and him and him!"
This morning I’m going to talk about that dreaded five letter word…tithe. Before you close your ears, I want you to consider a different way of looking at the tithe.
Imagine you're up on the 70th floor of the Empire State Building. Suddenly a man opens the window and says he's going to jump. You call out, "Stop. Don't do it." "Try to stop me and I'll take you with me."
Noting that the guy is 6-foot-5, you say, "No problem. Have a safe trip. Any last messages?" He says, "Let me tell you my troubles. My wife left me, my kids won't talk to me, I lost my job and my pet turtle died." After an hour of stories like this, you're so depressed you're ready to jump with him. Finally he turns to you and says, "Tell me - why should I go on living?"
What do you say? Suddenly you get a flash of inspiration. "Sir, close your eyes for a minute. Now I want you to imagine that you are blind. No colors, no sights of children playing, no fields of flowers, no sunset ... Now imagine that suddenly there's a miracle. You open your eyes and you can see. Are you going to jump ... or will you stick around a week to look around?" "I'd stick around for a week to see." "What happened to all the troubles?" "Ah, I guess they're not so bad. I can see."
I want us to close our eyes about tithing and then open them with a new outlook.
PROVERBS 3:9 TELLS US TO HONOR THE LORD WITH OUR SUBSTANCE. NOW WE USUALLY THINK MONEY, BUT SUBSTANCE MEANS MUCH MORE. IT REFERS TO EVERYTHING WE OWN, EVERYTHING WE HAVE UNDER OUR CONTROL. I AM HOPING YOU WILL PUT A FRESH PERSPECTIVE ON A SUBJECT THAT USUALLY CAUSES PEOPLE TO SQUIRM IN THEIR SEATS, AND AVOID EYE CONTACT WITH THE PREACHER.
Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, "Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives." Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there. When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven. And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. On the third day we threw the ship's tackle overboard with our own hands. Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up. But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.' Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island." Acts 27:9-26 (NKJV)
IF WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS TO HONOR GOD WITH OUR SUBSTANCE, WE MUST UNDERSTAND WHAT PAUL MEANT WHEN HE SAID "GOD, WHOSE I AM, WHOM ALSO I SERVE."
I think that most Christians don’t really understand what it means to really be God’s. To see yourself as belonging totally to God, you have to put yourself in the place of those seamen. You need to feel the saltspray on your cheek. You need to feel the ship rising and falling. You need to hear the thunder of the waves against the bow. You need to see the flash of the lightning, feel the wind blowing against you, so hard that you can lean 45 degrees into it and not fall over. You are totally helpless. You have given up hope of ever seeing home again, of ever hugging your wife, hugging your children, your grandchildren. You are going to die. Every possession you have, everything you hold dear, you would be willing to throw over the side of the ship if you could only feel dry ground under your feet again.
Nothing is as important as life at that moment. When you stare death in its face, everything of value fades away except life.
Paul knew this. He knew that everything he was and ever would be was totally tied up with Jesus Christ.
Do you see that as well?
Until you do, you will have a hard time when the preacher talks about money.
We tithe for a multitude of reasons.
1. Emotional appeal
A little church was having a homecoming service to which ex-members, who had moved away, were invited. One of the former members had become a millionaire. When asked to speak, the wealthy man recounted his childhood experience. He had earned his first silver dollar which he had decided to keep forever. "But when a visiting missionary preached about the urgent need for funds in his mission work, and the offering basket was passed, a great struggle took place within me. As a result," the wealthy man said, "I put my treasured silver dollar in the basket. I am convinced that the reason God has blessed me richly is that when I was a boy I gave God everything I possessed."
The congregation was spellbound by the multi-millionaire's tremendous statement until an elderly little man seated in the front row rose and said, "Brother, I dare you to do it again."
3. Fear of God
4. Respect of Man
5. Gratefulness for something God has done.
6. Love the pastor
7. Love the church
8. Love of God
These are all good reasons, but as such, they are subject to the winds of change.
1. Lose our tenderness to emotional appeals
2. Hard hearted so guilt doesn’t faze us.
3. No longer fear God
4. Man doesn’t appreciate us
5. God stopped doing great things for us
6. Pastor does something we don’t like
7. Church does something we don’t like
8. God does something we don’t like.
Our giving suddenly changes. Maybe we even stop giving.
David Russell, a pastor in Union City, Tennessee tells about Nathan, a precocious three-year-old in his church. Nathan's parents were trying to introduce him to what it means to be in church. One Sunday they gave him a one-dollar bill that Nathan was to place in the offering plate. When the plate moved down Nathan's pew, his parents held it infront of him and told him to place the dollar in the plate. Nathan balked. Finally his mother gently took the dollar from him. She placed it in the plate, and it was passed on down the pew. Suddenly the stillness of the offertory was shattered by a voice demanding, "I want my dollar back! I want my dollar back!" Nathan had been robbed and he wanted everyone to know it. His parents tried in vain to quiet their son, but he was insistent, "I want my dollar back!" Everyone in the congregation was fighting a losing battle against laughter. Throughout the remaining strains of the organist's meditative tune, the only thing most worshippers heard was, "I want my dollar back!" Eventually, his parents gave Nathan another dollar to hold and he was content enough so that the congregation could make it through the Doxology.
Pastor Russell says that as he stepped into the pulpit, he knew he needed to talk about what had happened. Looking out at the smiling faces he said, "We shouldn't laugh. It may be that Nathan is only voicing the feelings that some of us have after having given to God. We do so, not joyously but out of a sense of obligation. We do so unwillingly. We may not say it, but some of us think it, "I want my dollar back!"
Larry Burkett knew a pastor who did something interesting one Sunday - he took up the offering himself. And he didn't just take it up, but watched what each person put in. If they put in a sealed envelope, he opened it up to see what was inside. A murmur rose up in the congregation and many of the members were furious. The next Sunday the pastor spoke from the pulpit: "Many of you were upset that your pastor looked in the offering envelopes last week. Has it ever occurred to you to consider what GOD thinks when he looks in there??"
Leighton Farrell was the minister of Highland Park Church in Dallas for many years. He tells of a man in the church who once made a covenant with a former pastor to tithe ten percent of their income every year. They were both young and neither of them had much money. But things changed. The layman tithed one thousand dollars the year he earned ten thousand, ten thousand dollars the year he earned one hundred thousand, and one hundred thousand dollars the year he earned one million. But the year he earned six million dollars he just could not bring himself to write out that check for six hundred thousand dollars to the Church.
He telephoned the minister, long since having moved to another church, and asked to see him. Walking into the pastor’s office the man begged to be let out of the covenant, saying, "This tithing business has to stop. It was fine when my tithe was one thousand dollars, but I just cannot afford six hundred thousand dollars. You’ve got to do something, Reverend!"
The pastor knelt on the floor and prayed silently for a long time. Eventually the man said, "What are you doing? Are you praying that God will let me out of the covenant to tithe?"
"No," said the minister. "I am praying for God to reduce your income back to the level where one thousand dollars will be your tithe!"
Here is the way we need to view our privilege of tithing.
Consider Paul and the Foundational Truth of His Life:
1. He was God’s
2. He served God
All of the stuff we have around our lives suddenly doesn’t seem too important when we are staring death in the face.
You think about all your stuff. Do you LIVE Proverbs 3
(Pro 3:9) Honor the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
Do you Honor God with your possessions. Or do you use them to honor yourself?
A minister once told me of a very interesting thing that he did in his congregation one Sunday morning. He said that when the ushers had taken up the offering one Sunday and brought the plates down to the alter rail, he took the plates and held them up in the air and he gave a prayer: "Lord, regardless of what we say about you, this is really what we say about you, this is really what we feel about you. Amen."
Now Most people say that all our possessions belong to the Lord. And that is most certainly true. But God doesn’t need all your possessions unless you are putting them before Him. Then he has a problem. For God said I will have no other God’s before me.
I believe God is dealing with America in such a way as to shake us from having Money as our God. God will bring us to the point where our trust will be in Him, and not in money.
So how do we honor God with our substance?
The Pharisees used the Herodians to try to trick Jesus. They asked Him if it was lawful to pay taxes. Jesus asked them to bring a denarii to him.
Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money." So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar's." And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Matthew 22:17-21 (NKJV)
Jesus said you need to pay taxes, but he also said something else. Give to God that which is God’s.
Now many people say that the concept of tithe is Old Testament. It doesn’t apply to today. But Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not cast it aside. In fact He said that not one jot or tittle of the Law would be done away with until it is fulfilled (Matt 5:18)
How do you honor the Lord with your substance? What things belong to God?
(Lev 27:30) And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD's: it is holy unto the LORD.
(Lev 27:32) And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.
God says that one tenth of all you own is His!
So when Jesus says to give God that which is His, we give him a tenth of all we make and own?
Now how important is it to honor God with our substance that belongs to Him?
Malachi is the last word that God gave His people for four hundred years, until the ministry of John the Baptist. He was really irritated at His people, and one of the reasons is their refusal to Honor Him.
"A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, 'In what way have we despised Your name?' Malachi 1:6 (NKJV)
He listed a number of other faults, and then He gave them some advise that we should pay close attention to. He said if you want to return to me you need to start doing something:
Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you," Says the Lord of hosts. "But you said, 'In what way shall we return?' "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try 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 such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field," Says the Lord of hosts; Malachi 3:7-11 (NKJV)
Honoring God with our substance is critical if we are to return to Him. It is the Honor that comes with direct reward. Protection from the devourer, and material blessing.
I want you to consider taking the Jacob pledge:
and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” Genesis 28:22 (ESV)
I’m not going to stand here and promise you that if you tithe you will be wealthy beyond imagination. Even though some very successful men claim that is why God has blessed them.
All I will tell you is that if you name Jesus Christ as your Savior, your sins are forgiven and God’s grace and mercy is open by the bucketfuls to you.
If you love God, you love His Son, if your life is all about honoring them, because you belong to God, then you will want to Honor God with your substance.
He promises to reward you when you honor Him with your substance.
He promises to rebuke the devourer.
He promises fruit for your life.
Perhaps you need to return to God and confess your dishonor for Him in your life. You have laid a selfish claim to what God wants, and that is Honor with your substance.
The story of soap-maker William Colgate:
His family was poor and at the age of 16 he left home to seek his fortune. The only thing he knew was how to make soap and candles. He met an old canal-boat captain who gave him this advice: "Be a good man, give your heart to Christ, pay the Lord all that belongs to Him, make an honest soap, and I'm certain you'll be a prosperous and rich man."
William arrived in New York and got a job in a soap factory. The first dollar he earned, he gave 10% to God. Soon he became a partner. Later he became the owner. The business grew, so he gave a double tithe, 20%. Then a triple tithe, a four-fold one, half his income - finally he was giving all his income to the Lord. He was faithful to God, and his name is with us today on every tube of Crest toothpaste - Colgate-Palmolive.
Wesley's guidelines on money:
1. Gain all you can.
Money can be used for good. But do not thereby damage yourself, others, or the environment.
2. Save all you can.
Two reasons were not to waste money, and not to increase desires.
3. Give all you can.
Giving begins, but does not end, with the tithe.
Now imagine that you are on that ship in the Mediterranean. You can hear it breaking up under the force of the wind and the waves. You have been throwing up for hours. You are weak from not eating. You are dehydrated. You know you don’t have verylong to life.
What does all you money mean at that moment. What good are all those possessions. Would you give everything to save your life?
Jesus gave everything to save your life. He died on the cross for your sins. He bore the price of your disobedience, your dishonor of the God of the universe.
If you have accepted His love for you and asked Him to be your personal Savior, you owe Him everything. How hard is it to honor Him with one tenth of what you make, of one tenth of your substance.
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