What is one of the top contributors to divorce? What causes us stress and anxiety? What makes us believe that if we had just a little more of it, life would be better? Money!
If you do not have money, you want it and if you have a lot of money, then you worry about keeping it. The world teaches us to believe that money gets us power, identity, comfort, security, and control of our future. But if you are a student of God’s word, you know that God has a completely different idea of money.
Money never stays with me. It would burn if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible lest it should find its way into my heart. -John Wesley (Preacher-founder Methodist church)
Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. Hoarding is idolatry. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer (theologian/writer)
Can a man be poor if he is free from want, if he does not covet the belongings of others, if he is rich in the possession of God? Rather, he is poor who possesses much but still craves more. -Tertullian (theologian/writer)
On a missions trip to Guatemala with high schoolers, we were invited to the home of locals who greeted us in their very best clothes. They lived in a one-room house with a dirt floor, table, mismatched dishes, and not enough chairs. The family served us two weeks worth of beans and a chicken that they had sacrificed for us. They stood while we ate and watched us with joy; we hoped to give to them but they gave so much more in return. What we give is not about an amount but about our hearts.
Money is difficult to live without and difficult to live with. What is a lot of money to some is nothing to another. Last week when my truck was in the shop for repairs, some additional work was needed. I asked how much it would cost and he responded, “It shouldn’t be that much.” Did he mean $5 or $500? What is a small amount of money to him may be a lot to me.
Money itself is amoral, meaning it has no moral value. If I am holding a $100 bill in my hand, I am holding a new pair of shoes, a payment on a utility bill, groceries to help a struggling family, a bottle of wine. One hundred dollars can be used to score dope, bet on a horse race, buy a bottle of perfume, or give a micro loan to a poor farmer in Rwanda to start a new life.
Money itself is amoral, so what matters is how we choose to use it. Money is not good or bad, it’s simply a tool. We should control money, money should not control us. How much money we have is irrelevant to responding to God’s call on our lives. The control money has on us is very subtle.
The Bible speaks often about money. Almost 25% of what Jesus said was about money. This is because how we handle money, or how it handles us, is a reflection of our heart. We don’t like to talk about money because we believe money is our kingdom. This idea of giving up money and laying it down is a struggle for us. What we do with money reveals our affections, where we put our trust or faith, and what we are depending on or value.
Paul begins to close his letter to the Corinthians with final thoughts – these are not insignificant afterthoughts but final issues of importance. The first is a collection for the struggling saints in Jerusalem. He reminds this primarily Gentile congregation that they have been grafted in, brought into the faith to be part of a new holy nation. They have a responsibility to the greater body, the church. Second, we give because Christ gave to us. All that we have comes from Him, so how can we not share it?
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3
We see five things about giving from this passage:
1. Regular and ongoing – Paul directed them to give on the first day of the week. The collection of funds for the saints was to be a regular and ongoing discipline. The idea is consistent giving, which focuses our attention on Jesus and reminds us of what He has given us. This is why we have communion every week – to remember Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us. Regular giving keeps our eyes on Jesus and our heart loyal. Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).
2. Universal for saints – Paul said “each one of you is to put aside and save.” Everyone is needed to participate for the common good and the sake of all our hearts. The church is not to be supported by just a few individuals; we are interdependent. God is self-sufficient and He doesn’t need us, but the Body needs one another to fully function.
3. Intentional – Paul told them to “put aside and save.” This means to put aside the first fruits, to give to God the best, not the leftovers. This is an act of faith, trust and love.
4. Proportional – There is no standard amount for giving; Paul said to give “as he may prosper” or as God has provided. This is not a strict tithe like we see in the Old Testament, which was a literal one-tenth. For some, giving $100 is easy but for others, it would be life threatening.
The Old Testament tithe was 10% of the first fruits, or 10% of gross income. The tithe represents the amount and the first fruits represents the nature of the offering. There were actually three tithes in the Old Testament: one to support the Levites and the priests (Numbers 18:21, 24), one for the sacred festival (Deuteronomy 12:17-18; 14:23) and another for orphans and widows and the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 26:12-13). Together, these tithes reached almost 25%. Tithes reminded God’s people of His great providence in their lives.
Why do we give God our first fruits?
Honor the LORD from your wealth And from the first of all your produce; Proverbs 3:9
• First fruits represent our best, and create a grateful heart.
• Giving first fruits represents intentionality, not waiting to give until we have everything we want
• First fruits acknowledges that all things are from God – it is not a pay back but a thank back to God who has provided. It is a sign of a grateful heart and a sign of a trusting heart.
5. Freely – Paul wanted the collection to be collected before he came so that there would be so sense of coercion or guilt. He used the word charis, meaning grace gift. They were to give freely as they were reminded that God gave grace to them freely. We see the freewill offering in the Old Testament as well (Leviticus 2:18-23; Deuteronomy 12:6;17).
And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, and they said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the LORD commanded us to perform.” So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, “Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.” Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more. For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it. Exodus 36:4-7
The emphasis is not on the amount of the offering but the willingness of each person’s heart. This was not a tithe but a giving above and beyond; it was not mandatory but voluntary. This is similar to the Macedonians who were poverty-stricken but begged Paul to give to the needs of others. What did they understand that we don’t?
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Matthew 10:8
God gives so that we can give. By it’s very nature, the Gospel has to give. If the Gospel stops with us, it ceases to be the Gospel and we misrepresent Jesus. God gave His very Son for us – He’s a giving and generous God!
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him. Ephesians 1:3-9
Jesus gave us His very life, His very best! What did we do? Absolutely nothing but Christ was a giver – He gave His life and found joy in it. God the Father was pleased to give His Son for us:
But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering Isaiah 53:10
God is not taking from you. He doesn’t need anything from you. God is a giver, a generous God who wants you to enjoy the good pleasures He has for you. God isn’t out to get us – this isn’t about Him wanting our money, it’s about Him wanting our heart and the biggest thing around our heart is usually our wallet.
If we worship money, the god of this world, we will be robbed of our joy and we will be robbing God of the glory we are to give Him. Money comes and money goes; we can’t depend on it and it does not secure our future.
We give generously because He generously gave to us.
• Generous giving is a sign of a Spirit-filled life
• Generous giving is a sign of a grateful heart
• Generous giving is a sign of a trusting heart
• Generous giving is a sign of a heart free from the bondage or love of money
• Generous giving is how God designed His body to work. He blesses some with abundance and He blesses others through their faithful giving.
• Generous giving is a picture of God’s generosity to us, that the world may see and know the Jesus we follow.
Jesus calls us to follow Him. To do that, we lay does our lives and often that means money. When Jesus encountered the rich young man who asked what he must do to inherit the kingdom, Jesus told him to go and sell everything he owned. The man sadly walked away because he had so much – Jesus was showing him that money owned his heart. His possessions came between him and Jesus (Mark 10:17-27).
What is coming between you and Jesus this morning? Is it money, possessions, a relationship, a job? Whatever it is, Jesus wants us to get rid of it. Let’s lay our hearts and wills before Him today. He is Lord and our Master, the Great Provider, so let’s lay all that we have at His feet. He calls us to follow Him – a laying down first and foremost our own lives.