Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Non-series Sermons . Giving from the heart - Remix (Part 2)

. Giving from the heart - Remix (Part 2)

GIVING FROM THE HEART - REMIX (PART 2)

 

Introduction

Last week we did a long introduction into the issue of ‘giving from the heart’ and our text we are focusing is 2 Corinthians 12:14-15 and in particular the part of verse 14 where Paul says: “for I seek not what is yours but you.” Christ Himself was more concerned about the heart of people than them simply giving Old Testament Tithes as the Pharisees did so meticulously. Now the last part of the sermon we looked at the Old Testament principle of giving which is the Tithe and we saw how it functioned in the Jewish Theocracy under God. If we are to embrace that and make it law, well then most of us will have to hike our giving quite a bit to fit in with the way they operated and then also we must embrace a whole horde of other Old Testament laws as well. We cannot pick and choose which ones we keep and which ones we discard.

 

Now, our desire is to be truly Biblical, isn’t that right? We must be true to Scripture and we must allow Scripture to speak to us from its original context. We are not allowed to force our opinions on Scripture. A text without context is always pretext. You can build any doctrine from Scripture if you so desire but it does not mean that it is right doctrine. Sadly the topic of money is maybe one of the topics where Scripture is so abused to say what people want it to say. I told you before about the pastor who preached on Ecclesiastes 4:12 (ESV) 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

 

He actually wrote a book on this simple statement “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” He states that he prayed for many months on the meaning of this statement and then the Holy Spirit told him it is all about giving. The threefold cord is all about money, because where there is a giver, there is always a gift and always a receiver, which is the threefold cord. Sadly, I say this with respect. Then the Holy Spirit was lying. The context of this section is clear. It is about companionship. It starts with verse 7 that says that a man who does not have a companion is worse off, verse 9 says two people together are better than one. Then we are told why, and it ends with an illustration of a chord that can easily be broken if there was just one strand, and it can easily be broken if it is two strands and as you add strands it cannot easily be broken. That’s it, all the pastor had to do was to read the text in context and he would have saved himself many months of unnecessary prayer. Some people believe that as soon as they add the statement “The Holy Spirit says” it becomes unquestionable truth.

 

Let me give you another example. Mark brought me a magazine produced by a local church in Polokwane just this last week. In it they have an article called ‘Money Matters’. Now, I would love to dissect the whole article, but let me show you the danger of a text without context. I quote the third paragraph in the article. “The Bible says in the book of Proverbs that we are what we think. Proverbs 23:7 (amp) “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he”. In other words, if we think we must be poor, we will be poor, if we think we must be rich we will be rich.” Then the article mentions without quotation part of Phil 4:8 and I quote the article not the Bible: “The Bible says we must focus on things that are true and lovely and of good report.” Finally they have discovered the solution to poverty around the world and even for many in this congregation. All you need to do is “think that you must be rich, and you will be rich” Gullible people swallow up this kind of teaching hook, line and sinker. Let me give you this verse in context and then we look at what the New Testament teaches about giving. I am going to give you the ESV, but you are welcome to go and read all the translations. The Amplified version they used in the article is not a direct translation. So, let’s see if we really can learn something about a desire for money from this text.

 

Proverbs 23:1-7 (ESV) 1 When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, 2 and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. 3 Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. 4 Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. 5 When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. 6 Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, 7 for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.”

 

Let me give you verse 7 from a few translations.

 

Proverbs 23:7 (ASV) 7 For as he thinketh within himself, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; But his heart is not with thee.”

 

Proverbs 23:7 (NIV) 7 for he is the kind of man who is always thinking about the cost. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.”

 

Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) 7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”

 

So, all this text says is that this man says, eat with me, but don’t go on his words or be fooled by the nice meal on the plate, as he is deceiving you as his heart is not with you.

 

Sadly, this church that produced this article goes a step further and I need to end here with their ripping of Scripture out of context. They then state that Jesus said more about money than anything else. Then they ask the question: “Do you think it is safe to say that Jesus spoke more about money, because it came from the abundance of His heart.” I nearly vomited when I read this. To think that the Son of God left all His riches in glory to be consumed in His heart with earthly riches is total hogwash. Look at what Jesus says about Himself in Luke 9:58 (ESV) 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Sounds like somebody consumed with money, right?

 

Oh, how my heart breaks when I see how Scripture is purposely manipulated and abused to say what we want it to mean. In their article they quote another verse totally out of context, a verse that has nothing to do with money but spiritual riches, and then they say the following: “Jesus died not only to give me spiritual life, buy Jesus died to also make me rich.” This kind of theology is sickening. So somehow I must conclude that Paul and the rest of the apostles were actually not Christians, and this includes most of us as well.

 

But, let’s march on and now see what we can tell about giving in the New Testament.

Point 2. Overview of New Testament principle of Giving.

As we come over to the New Testament the picture changes significantly. Jesus mentions tithing only twice, both times in reference to its legalistic abuse.

He says in Matthew 23:23 (NIV)23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” We saw this last week.

In Luke 18:9-14, He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others. Remember the story of the Pharisee and Tax Collector. Luke 18:11-12 (NIV) 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’”

Obviously Jesus did not regard tithing as a spiritual cure all. He does not reject it. He affirmed it for Israel. But He is much more intent on the weightier matters of the law, like faith. You can tithe everything and not trust God. Jesus was not seeking what was theirs, he was seeking them: the love of their soul, not the load of their silver.

The apostle Paul never refers to tithing. Whether he taught his churches to tithe when he founded them we don't know. But his rules in his letters seem to be as follows.

First: In 1 Corinthians 16:2 (NIV) Paul says: " 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income,…” So believer give according to their income on the first day of the week. If you miss that week, you bring it the next time.

Second: 2 Corinthians 8:3 (NIV) 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,” So believers according to Paul give sacrificially.

And third in 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV), " 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Believers give willingly. They love to give.

And finally 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV), "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work."

There is only one more place in the New Testament where tithing is mentioned. Hebrews 7:4-12 simply refers back to Genesis 14 where Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, and the point is simply to show that Christ is like Melchizedek. The issue is not tithing.

Therefore, with regard to positive, explicit teaching on tithing, the New Testament is almost totally silent. I have a growing conviction why this is the case. I think God took the focus off giving a tithe in the early church because he wants his people to ask themselves a new question. I want to agree with John Piper that the question that Jesus drives us to ask again and again is not, "How much should I give?" but rather, "How great is God’s grace upon me, and therefore how much dare I keep?"

Point 3. The difference between Old Testament giving and New Testament giving.

In the Old Testament you notice a movement in the purposes of giving. Remember. Originally, they would eat their tithe in the Lord’s place to celebrate His goodness, but later it was given to the priests and Levites so that they could live on it and focus on the law of God. In the same way there is a shift from the Old Testament to the New Testament and I believe also from the New Testament to the church of today.

The nature of the church today is entirely different than the nature of the church in 64 AD. We live in a different world. No longer is the world primitive. Life functions on a total different level. The constants between the early New Testament church and us is that the Great Commission is still in place, that the Lord still gifts His church with Pastors and teachers to equip the saints. There were other needs in the church in 64 AD and today you still find those exact needs. For example, widows and orphans will always be among us. The church is more established, it now gathers in larger facilities and its ministries are more organised which affects the whole dynamic of giving.

Now, the spiritual hope and the physical and emotional sustenance that Jesus brought to earth is to be extended by his church to the whole world. The task he gave us is so immense and requires such a stupendous investment of commitment and money that the thought of settling the issue of what we give by a fixed percentage (like a tenth) is simply out of the question, as God’s grace is so abundant to so many.

Let me say this. It is fine to set our giving on a tithe. If that is what you want to do because that is what truly reflects the grace of God upon your life that is fine. My own conviction however is that many middle and upper class South Africans who merely tithe are actually robbing God. It is a Biblical truth beyond dispute: that all your money is God's. Psalm 24:1 (NIV) “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” but He has loaned  it to us as stewards to use in ways that maximize the glorification of God's mercy in the world.

It is irrational to think that giving ten per cent of that money to the church settles the issue of good stewardship. In a world of such immense need, and in a country of such immense luxury, and under the commission of such a powerful Lord the issue of stewardship is not: Shall I tithe?, but rather, How much of God's trust funds dare I use to surround myself with too many comforts? And you know what, nobody else but you and the Lord will figure that one out. You must be able to go on your knees before God and say: “Father God, you and I both know that my giving as I have determined in my heart is truly a reflection of your grace, and that I am not robbing you.”

I had every intention, as I began to write this message, to argue that even though the New Testament is almost silent on tithing; yet, surely we who know Jesus should do no less than the Old Testament saints who did not know him. But, I believe there is something much more radical than a simple percentage at stake and that was Paul’s message to the Corinthians. To commend tithing as the ideal simply does not capture the New Testament view of discipleship.

Let me show you what happens when the Lord captures the heart of man.

Let me give you a few examples of what I am trying to say from the New Testament. Get ready for a lesson in Math. Luke 3:11 (NIV) 11 John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” That's 50% not 10%.

Luke 19:8 (NIV) 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, ” Again 50%.

Matthew 19:21 (NIV) Jesus speaks to the rich young ruler and says: “21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” That's 100%.

Luke 14:33 (NIV) 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Again 100%.

Acts 2:44 (NIV) 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.” That’s very close to 100%.

Acts 4:34 (NIV) 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales”. Not sure what percentage, but look at the extent to which some people would go for the sake of God’s glory.

Implications for us.

The best way that I know how to capture the spirit of the New Testament generosity is simply to say: the issue is not, How much must I give? But how much dare I keep? Not: Shall I tithe? But: How much of the money that I hold in trust for Christ can I take for my private use?

To put it in simple terms. The financial issue in the church today is not tithing, but the abuse of God’s grace towards us by keeping everything for an exorbitant life-style. The question is not can I afford to tithe, but can I justify the life-style that consumes 90% of my income? And behind that is the question: Do I love to use God's money to spread justice and mercy and spiritual hope in the world, or do I require more and more personal comfort? I don’t believe for any moment we can talk against personal comfort, but not at the cost of God’s kingdom.

There is a principle here. Romans 12:6-8 (NIV) 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his b faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

The question whether the work of Christ here at Logos Community Church in 2014 will be adequately supported is really the question of where your treasure is. And where your treasure is there is your heart. I’ve said it time and again. Paul says: “I do not seek what is yours but you.”

Let’s end with an example of a church that gave themselves first and then let us see what percentage they gave. I’m sure that after this example you will understand the point of my message, and that together we will seek to become a relevant church by giving from the heart.  2 Corinthians 8:1-5 (NIV) “ And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints." That is more than 100% of what they could afford. Here are people who were Kingdom focused. They did not argue that they were too poor to give. Verse 5 says: 5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”


So at the end of the day, after all has been said on the Old Testament and New Testament. We know we are not under OT law and if we were, then we would not only be giving 10% but much more. Nowhere in the NT does Christ or the apostles give instructions on what percentage. Now, you are welcome to give 10%, but some of us might still be robbing God in doing that. The simple rule is, go home, sit down, consider God's grace upon your life, pray much about it, commit yourself to be a responsible manager of the money that God has given you, live according to your means, don't make unecessary debt, live wise and honour God with the first fruits of the money He has entrusted you with. Give according to the grace you have received. But before you do that.


I trust that you agree that giving oneself to God first and to God’s people which are His church is the place to start, right? So, it is time for the second offering. This time we do not give money, but we give ourselves, and I know that as soon as you have given yourself there is no telling what percentage you will be giving. The million dollar question is this, where is your heart? Is your heart committed to the greater purposes of Christ and His church? If it is, I know your treasure will be there as well and not according to a percentage, but according to the grace of God.

Somebody once said: show me the stubs of your cheque book and I will tell you where your heart is. Nowadays it is ‘show me your internet banking’.

Where is your heart believer? Is it with God? Then put your treasure there. According to the grace you receive, give, and the Lord will honour you.

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: 11 May 2014

 

 



b Or in agreement with the

 

Text Box: GIVING FROM THE HEART – REMIX (Part 2)Introduction

Last week we did a long introduction into the issue of ‘giving from the heart’ and our text we are focusing is 2 Corinthians 12:14-15 and in particular the part of verse 14 where Paul says:

for I seek not what is yours but you.” Christ Himself was more concerned about the heart of people than them simply giving Old Testament Tithes as the Pharisees did so meticulously. Now the last part of the sermon we looked at the Old Testament principle of giving which is the Tithe and we saw how it functioned in the Jewish Theocracy under God. If we are to embrace that and make it law, well then most of us will have to hike our giving quite a bit to fit in with the way they operated and then also we must embrace a whole horde of other Old Testament laws as well. We cannot pick and choose which ones we keep and which ones we discard.

 

Now, our desire is to be truly Biblical, isn’t that right? We must be true to Scripture and we must allow Scripture to speak to us from its original context. We are not allowed to force our opinions on Scripture. A text without context is always pretext. You can build any doctrine from Scripture if you so desire but it does not mean that it is right doctrine. Sadly the topic of money is maybe one of the topics where Scripture is so abused to say what people want it to say. I told you before about the pastor who preached on Ecclesiastes 4:12 (ESV) 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

 

He actually wrote a book on this simple statement “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” He states that he prayed for many months on the meaning of this statement and then the Holy Spirit told him it is all about giving. The threefold cord is all about money, because where there is a giver, there is always a gift and always a receiver, which is the threefold cord. Sadly, I say this with respect. Then the Holy Spirit was lying. The context of this section is clear. It is about companionship. It starts with verse 7 that says that a man who does not have a companion is worse off, verse 9 says two people together are better than one. Then we are told why, and it ends with an illustration of a chord that can easily be broken if there was just one strand, and it can easily be broken if it is two strands and as you add strands it cannot easily be broken. That’s it, all the pastor had to do was to read the text in context and he would have saved himself many months of unnecessary prayer. Some people believe that as soon as they add the statement “The Holy Spirit says” it becomes unquestionable truth.

 

Let me give you another example. Mark brought me a magazine produced by a local church in Polokwane just this last week. In it they have an article called ‘Money Matters’. Now, I would love to dissect the whole article, but let me show you the danger of a text without context. I quote the third paragraph in the article. “The Bible says in the book of Proverbs that we are what we think. Proverbs 23:7 (amp) “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he”. In other words, if we think we must be poor, we will be poor, if we think we must be rich we will be rich.” Then the article mentions without quotation part of Phil 4:8 and I quote the article not the Bible: “The Bible says we must focus on things that are true and lovely and of good report.” Finally they have discovered the solution to poverty around the world and even for many in this congregation. All you need to do is “think that you must be rich, and you will be rich” Gullible people swallow up this kind of teaching hook, line and sinker. Let me give you this verse in context and then we look at what the New Testament teaches about giving. I am going to give you the ESV, but you are welcome to go and read all the translations. The Amplified version they used in the article is not a direct translation. So, let’s see if we really can learn something about a desire for money from this text.

Proverbs 23:1-7 (ESV) 1 When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, 2 and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. 3 Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. 4 Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. 5 When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. 6 Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, 7 for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.”

 

Let me give you verse 7 from a few translations.

 

Proverbs 23:7 (ASV) 7 For as he thinketh within himself, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; But his heart is not with thee.”

 

Proverbs 23:7 (NIV) 7 for he is the kind of man who is always thinking about the cost. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.”

 

Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) 7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”

 

So, all this text says is that this man says, eat with me, but don’t go on his words or be fooled by the nice meal on the plate, as he is deceiving you as his heart is not with you.

 

Sadly, this church that produced this article goes a step further and I need to end here with their ripping of Scripture out of context. They then state that Jesus said more about money than anything else. Then they ask the question: “Do you think it is safe to say that Jesus spoke more about money, because it came from the abundance of His heart.” I nearly vomited when I read this. To think that the Son of God left all His riches in glory to be consumed in His heart with earthly riches is total hogwash. Look at what Jesus says about Himself in Luke 9:58 (ESV) “58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Sounds like somebody consumed with money, right?

Oh, how my heart breaks when I see how Scripture is purposely manipulated and abused to say what we want it to mean. In their article they quote another verse totally out of context, a verse that has nothing to do with money but spiritual riches, and then they say the following: “Jesus died not only to give me spiritual life, buy Jesus died to also make me rich.” This kind of theology is sickening. So somehow I must conclude that Paul and the rest of the apostles were actually not Christians, and this includes most of us as well.

But, let’s march on and now see what we can tell about giving in the New Testament.

Point 2. Overview of New Testament principle of Giving.

As we come over to the New Testament the picture changes significantly. Jesus mentions tithing only twice, both times in reference to its legalistic abuse.

He says in Matthew 23:23 (NIV) 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” We saw this last week.

In Luke 18:9-14, He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others. Remember the story of the Pharisee and Tax Collector. Luke 18:11-12 (NIV) “11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’”

Obviously Jesus did not regard tithing as a spiritual cure all. He does not reject it. He affirmed it for Israel. But He is much more intent on the weightier matters of the law, like faith. You can tithe everything and not trust God. Jesus was not seeking what was theirs, he was seeking them: the love of their soul, not the load of their silver.

The apostle Paul never refers to tithing. Whether he taught his churches to tithe when he founded them we don't know. But his rules in his letters seem to be as follows.

First: In 1 Corinthians 16:2 (NIV) Paul says: " 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income,…” So believer give according to their income on the first day of the week. If you miss that week, you bring it the next time.

Second: 2 Corinthians 8:3 (NIV) 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,” So believers according to Paul give sacrificially.

And third in 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV), " 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Believers give willingly. They love to give.

And finally 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV), "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work."

There is only one more place in the New Testament where tithing is mentioned. Hebrews 7:4-12 simply refers back to Genesis 14 where Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, and the point is simply to show that Christ is like Melchizedek. The issue is not tithing.

Therefore, with regard to positive, explicit teaching on tithing, the New Testament is almost totally silent. I have a growing conviction why this is the case. I think God took the focus off giving a tithe in the early church because he wants his people to ask themselves a new question. I want to agree with John Piper that the question that Jesus drives us to ask again and again is not, "How much should I give?" but rather, "How great is God’s grace upon me, and therefore how much dare I keep?"

Point 3. The difference between Old Testament giving and New Testament giving.

In the Old Testament you notice a movement in the purposes of giving. Remember. Originally, they would eat their tithe in the Lord’s place to celebrate His goodness, but later it was given to the priests and Levites so that they could live on it and focus on the law of God. In the same way there is a shift from the Old Testament to the New Testament and I believe also from the New Testament to the church of today.

The nature of the church today is entirely different than the nature of the church in 64 AD. We live in a different world. No longer is the world primitive. Life functions on a total different level. The constants between the early New Testament church and us is that the Great Commission is still in place, that the Lord still gifts His church with Pastors and teachers to equip the saints. There were other needs in the church in 64 AD and today you still find those exact needs. For example, widows and orphans will always be among us. The church is more established, it now gathers in larger facilities and its ministries are more organised which affects the whole dynamic of giving.

Now, the spiritual hope and the physical and emotional sustenance that Jesus brought to earth is to be extended by his church to the whole world. The task he gave us is so immense and requires such a stupendous investment of commitment and money that the thought of settling the issue of what we give by a fixed percentage (like a tenth) is simply out of the question, as God’s grace is so abundant to so many.

Let me say this. It is fine to set our giving on a tithe. If that is what you want to do because that is what truly reflects the grace of God upon your life that is fine. My own conviction however is that many middle and upper class South Africans who merely tithe are actually robbing God. It is a Biblical truth beyond dispute: that all your money is God's. Psalm 24:1 (NIV) “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” but He has loaned it to us as stewards to use in ways that maximize the glorification of God's mercy in the world.

It is irrational to think that giving ten per cent of that money to the church settles the issue of good stewardship. In a world of such immense need, and in a country of such immense luxury, and under the commission of such a powerful Lord the issue of stewardship is not: Shall I tithe?, but rather, How much of God's trust funds dare I use to surround myself with too many comforts? And you know what, nobody else but you and the Lord will figure that one out. You must be able to go on your knees before God and say: “Father God, you and I both know that my giving as I have determined in my heart is truly a reflection of your grace, and that I am not robbing you.”

I had every intention, as I began to write this message, to argue that even though the New Testament is almost silent on tithing; yet, surely we who know Jesus should do no less than the Old Testament saints who did not know him. But, I believe there is something much more radical than a simple percentage at stake and that was Paul’s message to the Corinthians. To commend tithing as the ideal simply does not capture the New Testament view of discipleship.

Let me show you what happens when the Lord captures the heart of man.

Let me give you a few examples of what I am trying to say from the New Testament. Get ready for a lesson in Math. Luke 3:11 (NIV) 11 John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” That's 50% not 10%.

Luke 19:8 (NIV) 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, ” Again 50%.

Matthew 19:21 (NIV) Jesus speaks to the rich young ruler and says:21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” That's 100%.

Luke 14:33 (NIV) 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Again 100%.

Acts 2:44 (NIV) 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.” That’s very close to 100%.

Acts 4:34 (NIV) 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales”. Not sure what percentage, but look at the extent to which some people would go for the sake of God’s glory.

Implications for us.

The best way that I know how to capture the spirit of the New Testament generosity is simply to say: the issue is not, How much must I give? But how much dare I keep? Not: Shall I tithe? But: How much of the money that I hold in trust for Christ can I take for my private use?

To put it in simple terms. The financial issue in the church today is not tithing, but the abuse of God’s grace towards us by keeping everything for an exorbitant life-style. The question is not can I afford to tithe, but can I justify the life-style that consumes 90% of my income? And behind that is the question: Do I love to use God's money to spread justice and mercy and spiritual hope in the world, or do I require more and more personal comfort? I don’t believe for any moment we can talk against personal comfort, but not at the cost of God’s kingdom.

There is a principle here. Romans 12:6-8 (NIV) 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his b faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

The question whether the work of Christ here at Logos Community Church in 2014 will be adequately supported is really the question of where your treasure is. And where your treasure is there is your heart. I’ve said it time and again. Paul says: “I do not seek what is yours but you.”

Let’s end with an example of a church that gave themselves first and then let us see what percentage they gave. I’m sure that after this example you will understand the point of my message, and that together we will seek to become a relevant church by giving from the heart. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 (NIV) “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. That is more than 100% of what they could afford. Here are people who were Kingdom focused. They did not argue that they were too poor to give. Verse 5 says: “5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”

I trust that you agree that giving oneself to God first and to God’s people which are His church is the place to start, right? It is time for the second offering. This time we do not give money, but we give ourselves, and I know that as soon as you have given yourself there is no telling what percentage you will be giving. The million dollar question is this, where is your heart? Is your heart committed to the greater purposes of Christ and His church? If it is, I know your treasure will be there as well and not according to a percentage, but according to the grace of God.

Somebody once said: show me the stubs of your cheque book and I will tell you where your heart is. Nowadays it is ‘show me your internet banking’.

Where is your heart believer? Is it with God? Then put your treasure there. According to the grace you receive, give, and the Lord will honour you.

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: 11 May 2014

 



b Or in agreement with the