Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 14 Logos since 31 July 2017 . Giving from the heart (Part 1)

. Giving from the heart (Part 1)

GIVING FROM THE HEART (PART 1)

2 Corinthians 12:15

Introduction

This is one of the most difficult topics to preach on as pastor, as we have slipped into a culture, where we do not see God having authority over our finances, and therefore pastors in our kind of churches need to be silent on the topic, and simply hope that it will naturally go well with church giving as people choose to, or do not choose to give. In the end, some will give, others will tip the work of God and others will refrain and enjoy the ministry on the back of those who do give. The excuses not to give are legion, but we will deal with that two weeks from now.

Then we get ministries where people are manipulated into giving through false promises and spiritual emotional blackmail. Often the main aim will be so that the evangelist or pastor can enjoy a wealthy lifestyle at the cost of the people. I can tell stories about this kind of manipulation till the cows come home. I can also tell you about the value of some of these ministries and the riches of their pastors, but just do not feel the need to do so. You know all about it.

Now, it is fine to criticise those who abuse their position as spiritual leaders to extort money out of people, but where do we stand on giving here at Logos? Maybe the better question is, where I stand as your pastor, as it is not my desire to manipulate you into believing what I do. But I would like you to hear me carefully over the next three sermons, and then to weigh up what I teach and to alter your own views and position if needed. I have no agenda here, but to simply teach you what the Word of God says. If at the end of the day you fix your giving on 10%, whether you increase your giving or whether you decrease it is between you and the Lord. I do not believe that any of us are outgiving God and we can never out-give God.

I grew up having been taught that as New Testament Christians we ought to tithe, that means I take my income, work out a tenth and that part comes to the church. I was taught that at Seminary as well. At Seminary I was told that even though the New Testament does not teach tithing, it was never cancelled by Christ or even Paul for that matter, so therefore tithing stands. I asked my lecturers then about all the other laws like tithing that was not part of the 10 commandments that were also not cancelled by Christ or any of the apostles. I am still waiting for an adequate reply.

I actually taught tithing from the pulpit for many years so I do not blame any pastor or any other Christian for that matter for believing that or even teaching that. My convictions have actually changed over the years and now I teach what I believe I see in the New Testament namely grace giving, but more about that next week. I trust that you can join me in my desire to simply be Biblical and to be as accurate and honest with Scripture as we possibly can.

So, fasten your seatbelts, listen carefully and objectively and allow the Lord to even shake your traditions. My prayer at the end is not that you give less simply because we do not teach tithing, but that you become so filled with awe as far as God’s grace upon your life is concerned that you will maybe give more. Even though we are not Old Testament believers, we can still rob God, and therefore these sermons are critical.

Introduction – Part 2.

Now, we all know that for a church to be truly relevant as far as its work in the Kingdom is concerned requires finances and it requires all to be faithful as many hands makes light work. Now, it is the easiest thing under the sun to tell you to be faithful in your giving and I’m sure most of you are faithful in your giving already. But there is a deeper issue which I see in Scripture and that is: “If you are faithful in your giving, are you giving from the heart?” Or are you simply giving grudgingly because you have to. Are you a grateful, graceful, loving and cheerful giver or is your favourite song still ‘dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping, hear the pennies fall. Everyone for Jesus, He can have them all.’ The café owner, or the garage shop and even the car guard at the mall, do not want pennies anymore, so Jesus can have them.  Let me just say this before I am misunderstood. Pennies or cents as it is called in our day are welcome if that is really the extent of God’s grace upon your life. The widow’s mite may never be forgotten. She out gave the rich.

If you are not giving, then I want to know from you, why not? What is in your heart, and where is your treasure?

Maybe you are giving, but you have worked out ways to give as little as possible. Maybe you live like a millionaire and give like a pauper. Like the priests of old, you think that God will not notice that the lamb you give is blind or cripple. I wonder sometime if God would send an angel to do a lifestyle audit how we would fare when our giving is calculated.

Now we all know that giving is more than finances. I would love to pass the bags around at the end of the service today and ask you to give again, but not money this time. I would like to see each person’s name on a piece of paper, because I know when that happens then we will be faithful in our financial giving as well. Real giving starts with a Kingdom mind and a Kingdom heart and a Kingdom commitment. You see this in the life of Paul. Look at what he says in 2 Corinthians 12:15 (NIV) 15 So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less?”

Paul is not viewing his ministry in technical terms as many church leaders do. He is not saying, I have worked my eight hours for the day or I have done my bit now the rest is up to others. No, Paul had his priorities in order. He would spend everything he has for the sake of others, he would give himself for the sake of others and he would love them more than he loves himself. He is saying to all of us, spend and be spent for the sake of the Kingdom and the glory of God, spend and be spent for the task of spreading the gospel and for the sake of others coming to knows Jesus Christ and growing up in the faith. Now how does this mind-set impact all of us here this morning?

Now, for the sake of this sermon on giving I want to start with the verse that precedes this verse. Before Paul said that he will expend himself for their sake he says something very interesting. Look at verse 14: “Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possession but you…." The NAS says: “I seek not what is yours but you!” This is a wow statement and is the flag that we will fly over the whole of the sermon even when we look at the Old Testament. Paul’s heart for the Corinthian church is that they will in the first place give themselves rather than their possessions. “I seek not what is yours, but you.”

Jesus expresses this very same concern in Matthew 15:8 (NIV) 8”‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” The heart cry of Christ was that He had what was theirs but He did not have them. It is not that God is against people worshiping Him with stuff, but it must happen from the basis of a right heart, then the proportions will be right as well. This goes for giving as well. This verse could just as well say; "They honour me with their tithes, but their heart is far from me", because Christ deals with the same issue 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.” These guys honoured their legal duty and they meticulously split their mint, dill and cumin and made sure God got his 10th. Now Christ is not discouraging their giving as they were under Old Testament law, but He is saying to them ‘I seek not in the first place what is yours, but you.’

May it never be said of us, "Woe to you, Logos, for you tithe, and pledge, and you give when others are in need, but you have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith" (Logos. 23:23). I seek not what is yours but you, even though you should have practiced the former. I am not opposed to your tithes and pledges and giving to those in need, but you must not neglect the matters of the heart. I do not desire what is yours, but you.

How many tithing churchgoers will be lost to the kingdom because the word of God never reached their hearts: "I seek not what is yours but you." So, as we look at this sermon over the next two weeks “giving from the heart” the dominating point that will come home is this: “that life essentially is the life of the heart or on the flipside of the coin to state it negatively, the heart of the problem in giving is the heart.”

What I would like to do then today and next week is to give an overview of the Old Testament and New Testament teaching about giving and then we will draw some implications for how people today who have first given themselves wholly to God should then give of their possessions to the work of God.

Point 1. Old Testament principle of giving

What is the common phrase we hear when somebody announces that that they will be taking up money in church, what do they say? Normally something like; ‘we will now honour the Lord in our tithes and offerings’. At Logos, we simply say that we will now honour the Lord in our giving. Now where does this issue of tithing come from?

 

The oldest reference to tithing in the Bible is found in Genesis 14 where Abraham pursues a king named Chedorlaomer to rescue his kinsman Lot who had been captured. With 300 armed men Abraham defeats Chedorlaomer and not only saves Lot, but regains all the goods stolen from Sodom. On the journey back a mysterious figure named Melchizedek, called priest of the Most High God in verse 18, met Abraham and blessed him. Verse 20 simply says, "Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” There is no command in the later Mosaic Law or anywhere in Scripture that men are to give one tenth of their captured booty to the priest. But Abram did it, evidently as a token of gratitude to God who had just given him such a great victory. So, our first encounter with tithing is one where the giver is not paying God to stir him into action, but one where the giver is responding to God who has just fought for him and given him victory and great blessing. That is a pattern we must not forget.

 

The next time we hear of tithing is in Genesis 28:22. Abraham's grandson, Jacob, had a dream at Bethel in which God promised to be with him and give him a great land and many descendants (Genesis 28:13-15). Jacob is not commanded but he responds with a vow in verses 20-22 which climaxes with this promise: "of all that you give me, I will give a tenth” Notice well that Jacob recognizes everything that he has disposal of as a gift from God. Therefore, his tithe is not really something he has produced that he then transfers over to God's possession. Instead the tithe seems to be a symbolic statement that all we have is from God and that we do not count it our own. Surely Jacob did not mean that since God gave him everything therefore he would glorify God with a tenth, but not with the nine-tenths. Surely if God gives us anything it is for us to handle it in trust for his glory. Giving a tenth to Him in a burnt offering, or the service of the temple or the like is a token, a pledge that all we are and have are at his disposal all the time.

 

During the time of Moses, tithing was made part of the law which governed the people of Israel. There are many texts but two key texts. The first is Leviticus 27:30-32 (NIV) 30 “‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. 31 If a man redeems any of his tithe, he must add a fifth of the value to it. 32 The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the LORD.” Here the law made explicit what is to be tithed: namely, the produce of the field -- grain, and the produce of the trees -- fruit, and the herds and flocks.

 

In Deuteronomy 14:22-29 (NIV) some instruction is given as to how to give the tithe and what it is for. 22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. 24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. 27 And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own. 28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”

 

Let me make six brief observations from this passage about the practice and purpose of tithing as set out in this paragraph.

First, according to verse 23, there was to be a yearly trip to the holy place, the place God puts his name (later Jerusalem). The people were to take their tithe to that place and then eat it there, or at least eat part of it in a feast of joy. Tithing was not to be reduced merely to the pragmatic function of paying the priests and sustaining the temple. It was an expression of joy and gratitude. God did not need the tithe. In commanding it, he was seeking not what was theirs but them.

 

The second observation at the end of verse 23 is that the purpose of the tithing feast was “so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always.” Tithing was a means of remembering how dependent they were on God and how much one should fear to displease such a God by joyless ingratitude.

 

Third provision was made for those whose grain was too heavy and flocks too many to take them all the way to the holy place. They could sell them and then use the money to purchase substitutes when they arrived in the holy place.

Fourth, the tithe is not to be totally consumed by the family bringing it. The Levites who were scattered through the tribes of Israel with no land of their own were to be supported by the tithers of the other 11 tribes (v. 27). The Levites were set apart for special religious purposes and had no crops or herds. The tithe was given to God not only in the sense that it was eaten in a feast celebration of his faithfulness (cf. 'blessing" in v. 24), but also in the sense that part of it supported God's institution of the Levitical order.

Fifth, verses 28 and 29 describe a tri-annual tithe which was designed not only to support the Levites, but also the three most helpless groups of people in that society: the refugees, the orphans, and the widows. It seems that a sort of benevolent fund was replenished every three years for the needs of these people, by the calling in of a special tithe.

Finally, the section closes with a promise of blessing on the people if they are faithful in this act of mercy to men and gratitude to God. And this is a good place to remind ourselves of two things.

One is that the way most tithes were "given to God" was by giving them to ministry and people. God cannot be enriched by us. He has no needs that our possessions can satisfy. But he can be honoured by the way we treat others or the ministry in His name by special acts which celebrate his bounty and by our willingness to trust Him to supply all our needs when we give.

 

And the other thing we must remember is that God always honours people who tithe from a good heart of faith. The promise is not to make us rich, but it is this: those who love and trust God enough to honour him with at least a tithe will never lack the resources they need. I believe that is still true today.

 

There are two other important passages on tithing in the Old Testament:

 

Numbers 18:24 (NIV) says: 24 Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD.”

And in 2 Chronicles 31:4 (NIV) 4 He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the LORD.”

 

We can conclude therefore that tithing was God's prescribed way of supporting certain ministries which he had ordained. In fact, the Israelites gave 23.3 % of their income per annum if you were to calculate it over a three-year period. One thing we as Christians must remember though is that they were living under a Theocracy and their giving was used for the governance of the state as well. They were also expected to contribute with donations over and above these tithes as well as towards the building of the Tabernacle and the Temple.

 

In summary, then from the Old Testament tithing goes back to the very beginning of Israel's history before the law was given and seems to have been an expression of gratitude to the Lord who fights for his people and gives them all they have. Then as a part of the Mosaic Law, tithing was made a part of Israel's formal worship and its various forms and purposes were prescribed. It was used to support religious orders; it was used for religious feasting in celebration of God's goodness; and it taught the people to fear the Lord, that is, to fear not trusting him to meet all their needs.

 

Next week we will see what the New Testament teaches on giving.

 

Amen

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church:- 19 February 2017