In his book, Take God At His Word, Dr. Kregg Hood says that of all the subjects that a preacher can talk about, giving is the most sensitive one, especially on a Sunday where there's a lot of rain and you've had two collections. But I enter undaunted, nevertheless. People would rather hear about hell and damnation than about the issue of giving money in the church.
Now, there are several reasons for this. First of all, sermons about giving rarely come at times when we're giving sufficiently. Giving lessons usually point out some deficiencies and people don't like that. It's as simple as that. Also, lessons about money may remind us that we don't agree on how the money is being spent sometimes, and that could cause some resentment. We may feel guilty for having indulged ourselves maybe a little too much in worldly pleasure at the expense of our offering, and giving lessons kind of make us feel a little guilty, so we don't like those kinds of lessons. And then, of course, some think that churches are always asking for money, and so a lesson on giving is just one lesson too many. As I said, especially if you've made a big effort to come out in the rain and the hail, and you've risked hail damage to your car, and the preacher's talking about money, of all things- but giving is also a biblical topic and it has to be covered from time to time.
One of the primary reasons, however, may be that we are afraid of the future, and lessons on giving tend to tap into that fear. We're afraid that if we give too much away, we won't be able to make ends meet. We won't have enough for ourselves. Christians read passages about God providing all of our needs and think that the Bible only talks about spiritual needs, but in the world's economy, the future is never sure. However, in God's economy, there is always enough for everyone's needs. In the kingdom of God, there is no need to worry. Now, if we weren't worrying, we would've really amened that statement. The Lord owns everything. The Lord is not stingy. He's not possessive about anything. The Lord wants to bless His children. All He asks is that we trust Him, it's all He's asking for.
So in this morning's lesson, I want to share with you three promises that God makes to those who give to Him, as a way to motivate and empower our giving to the point where we can continue being generous when special needs occur. And also, and maybe this is the point I'm getting to here, more responsible in making budget from week to week. The budget is a kind of contract, if you wish, between the leaders of the church and the congregation. They say, we're going to invest money, this much money this year, in doing all of these things, and the congregation is saying, "Yes, okay, we agree, we'll provide for that kind of work."
Three Promises God Makes for Those who Give to Him
So here are a couple of promises that God makes to help us have confidence in our giving.
1. God Will Make You Rich
10Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; 11you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.
- II Corinthians 9:10-11
When it comes to God's provisions for us, we have to learn to differentiate between source and means. The means are our jobs and the bank, and our skills and the companies we work for. The ways that money and other blessings flow to us, those are the means. The source, however, is where the blessings, the money, the necessary things we require each day are created, where these things begin and who controls them. A pump or a faucet are the means by which we get water, but rain and the springs and the wells under the earth, those are the source.
We have many means which we can improve and develop, but only one source. And for us that source is God, Himself. And as far as God being a source, Paul says the following,
And my God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 4:19
The Bible teaches that when you give generously out of love for God, you tap into the very source of God's blessings or God's wealth. Tapping into the source by giving generously out of love will produce two specific riches for us. First of all, we will be made richer in our giving. Now, this is not the gospel of wealth preached by a lot of TV preachers: send money and the Lord will bless you for it. This is the give-to-get theory of religion.
Generous giving to the Lord will bring many kinds of blessings on our heads, which include material and emotional blessings- look at Abraham, Job, Solomon and Barnabas. However, the greatest of these will be the additional resources to be able to give more to the Lord. It's a sort of, you-give-so-you-can-give-again type of theory. No one ever went broke giving to the Lord. As a matter of fact, the more we give, the more the Lord enables us to give. Sometimes He does it by giving us more resources, sometimes He enables us to live more simply so we can give more generously, but either way we are richly blessed. To be able to give is a great feeling and a great blessing. To be able to increase our giving, regardless of the reasons, is even a greater blessing.
Now, let me ask you, have you ever been unhappy because you made a generous offering to the Lord? What was the feeling? You got a bonus, I don't know, income tax bonus or your uncle Joe, that you didn't know, died and he left you some money. He left you $100,000 and you sat down with your spouse and said, "You know what? Let's give half of this to the Lord. Why not? Let's give half of it to the Lord. We didn't earn it and we weren't expecting it, it just came in as a gift from heaven. Let's just give half of it to the Lord. We've never done that, let's get crazy." And you write that check for 50K and you drop it in the plate. Tell me, did you go home and cry after that? Did you feel somehow that God would abandon you after doing such a thing, such a generous thing? Of course not!
Another blessing of giving generously is that you will receive more than you give. In other words, you cannot out-give God. We believe this, but we don't practice it. God promises us that whatever we give, we will receive back a hundred fold. Did He not say that? For example, you give a smile, you receive back many smiles and good vibes. You give a hug and you receive not only a hug, but gratitude in return. You give forgiveness and you receive devotion and loyalty in return. When you give your money to God, He promises to give it back to you with interest. And so, the first promise of God to those who give generously is that He will make you rich in the way that it is important for you to be rich.
I remember when Lise and I were working in California. If you ask any preacher, would you like to work in San Diego, California? Would you like the church to provide you a 3,000 square foot condo? Would you like that? Would you like the windows of your office to overlook palm trees and a valley? Would you like to live four miles from the beach and get paid to preach in this paradise? Would you like to do that?
And then only after a couple of years, I get a phone call from a brother in Montreal, where it is cold. There are no palm trees in Montreal. And he says, brother, the church here in Montreal is struggling and it's dying and we need help, and I know you're in the warm country, would you consider coming back? That was like signing over 50,000 bucks. That was the equivalent to that, to leave a place where the mean temperature is 74 degrees and go to a place where it's winter for six months of the year. I hated winter, even when I lived there. But Lise, I'll blame it on her, because she's not here, she asked the same question that she asked when I originally went into ministry- on the day that I got a promotion at work, I quit to go into ministry, and on that day my wife announced that she was pregnant again. So this time she says to me, "In doing this, are we seeking the kingdom more powerfully?" I had to say, "Yes." "Alright then, let's pack, back to Montreal." Seven more years of mission work in the cold.
You're probably wondering, "Where is he going with this?" Fast forward to now, the church in Montreal is stable, they have a new building, they have their preacher, their support is guaranteed, they're doing well. But Lise and I are back in Choctaw, and our children that were scattered all over the United States have all moved back to Choctaw, and our 12 grandchildren all come to church at Choctaw, as some of you may already have found that out, with the screaming in the hallways.
You don't think this is a blessing? You don't think there were winter days in Montreal when we were up there thinking, "How's all this going to end Lord?" You don't think that the situation that Lise and I are in now has not been a 100-fold blessing for us, that for two days in a row we have celebrated a 50th anniversary with some of our oldest and dearest friends, in person? We didn't have to fly in for that. We just drove over for that. We received from the Lord so much more than we gave to the Lord.
So the first promise of God, to those who give generously, is that He will make you rich in the way that it's important for you to be rich. Sometimes we do everything spiritually we can and still our lives are filled with struggles. Perhaps we need to examine and revive our giving so we can become rich the way God wants us to be rich. The problem is, we always want to be rich the way we want to be rich, and He wants us to be rich in the way He wants us to be rich, and there's a difference. Many times we want to be rich so we can have and use stuff. He wants us to be rich so we can give stuff and know Him more perfectly.
2. God Will Reward You
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test 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 a blessing until it overflows."
- Malachi 3:10
One of the problems with the Jews, that Malachi refers to, is that they did not fulfill their financial commitments to the Lord. They were, if you wish, behind budget. And the consequence was that they were suffering economic and social problems as a result.
Some say that in the New Testament, we're not required to tithe, 10%, like they were required to do in the Old Testament. Well, it's true, the New Testament does not mention the percentage of our income, but it does state that we have a commitment to the Lord to give, just like they had a commitment to give to the Lord as well.
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.
- I Corinthians 16:2
The commitment in giving in the New Testament is as follows: Each Sunday, regardless of where we are, to set aside for the Lord. We give each week, not each time we're in church. Not each time we're in church because we're not in church every week. And then the second thing: Every member gives; this includes young people, old people, single people, married people, pensioners, part-time workers, every one should give.
If you take from the communion plate, you should contribute to the collection plate. And each should put aside and save. This means a conscious decision and effort to earmark some money for this purpose only. Save means you could use it somewhere else, but you've chosen not to. You've set it aside for the Lord, and you do that first.
And then the other instruction: we give as we're prospered. Each give as he or she is prospered. This is where the percentage comes in. In the Old Testament, the percentage was set at 10. In the New Testament, we're not limited to 10, that's the essential difference. God wants us to commit to Him financially, so He can reward us. Oh, I wish we understood that idea.
In Malachi, God invited the people to examine or to test Him, to see if His promise concerning His blessings was true. He said, "Go ahead, try Me. Stop giving Me the leftovers. Stop cutting down what you're giving. Stop falling behind. Go ahead, test Me now. Watch and see what I'll do if you do what I tell you to do when it comes to giving."
A weekly financial commitment requires a change of habit. It requires faith that God will provide. It requires discipline to continue with the commitment regardless of changing circumstances. But God promises that if you commit to Him financially, He will reward you for that commitment. But remember, He will reward you in His way, for His purpose. But you can be guaranteed of one thing: you're going to like it. You're going to like the way He blesses you.
3. God Will Surprise You
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.
- Ephesians 3:20
That, "abundantly beyond all that we ask," that's surprise. In Luke chapter five, Jesus needed Peter's boat in order to move back from the crowds who are pressing in on Him, on the shore. And Peter was tired from fishing all night, but he agreed to take Jesus out in his boat. And after the sermon, Jesus told Peter to cast his net into the deep part of the lake in the morning sun. Now, Peter had failed all night at fishing, had caught nothing- and that's when you fish. He had just cleaned and stored his nets, and fishing in the sunshine was not a good thing, and the deep part of the lake was the worst area to fish. All experienced fishermen on the lake knew this. But Peter obeyed Jesus anyways and made the greatest catch of fish in his lifetime. Not only did he make a great payday, it was this day that Jesus invited him to become one of His apostles, an invitation that would change his life forever. God surprised him.
In 1984, there were only 25 people in the French congregation in Montreal, meeting in a small room at the back of the building, the English church building in Lachine. We had outgrown the small room, but we seemed too few to go out and buy our own building. Then one day we saw an old Presbyterian church building for sale, it was $156,000, but this was a very large church building. It was near a subway station and buses. It was in a very populated area. It was old and run down, it only cost $156,000, but we were only 25 people.
We decided to trust in God, commit ourselves to giving and wait for Him to reward our faith. People put up their houses as collateral for the loan. We found an organization to rent the bottom floor during the week, in order to help us make mortgage payments. The Lord blessed our faith and our giving and then He surprised us. The church doubled in size to help pay for the mortgage and expenses. I think that year we baptized 30 people. The US dollar increased in value and my work funding increased by $4,000 a month, just because of the rate of exchange, and we were able to pay all of the renovations with my work fund.
Several years later, a little boy playing with matches in the alley behind the church building accidentally set it on fire. No one was hurt, but the building was completely destroyed. The building, by the way, was insured for $450,000, which was enough to pay off the mortgage and build a brand new building with the balance. The congregation built a brand new building. The inside was brand new. The only thing that was left was the brick front. It was the only thing that survived the fire, everything else was gone.
The engineers told us that the front would stay, so long as we built around it. And so that's what the church did. Brand new building, no mortgage payments, no tenants sharing the building, the building completely paid off. This is how the Lord surprised us. I can imagine if that meeting had gone the other way. Well, we're only 25, come on. That's a big thing. What if I lose my house? Is the church going to support us if we lose the house? It's so hard to work in this thing, and you're being supported. What if one of the churches drops you all of a sudden? It happens all the time. Churches say, "We can't continue with our support. Sorry you'll just need to raise the money somewhere else." What happens then? No more work fund.
A surprise means you're not expecting what will happen, you don't know the outcome. The Lord promises those who commit themselves to regular, generous giving, that He will not only bless us, He will surprise us.
And so the true power in giving is the power of God to fulfill His promises to those who give. That's where the power is, and that is: the promise to make rich those who give; rich in the ability to give joyfully, rich in the blessings that follow generous giving. And what are those blessings? Peace, joy, satisfaction, hope.
Secondly, a promise to reward us. Our social and economic welfare is directly dependent on God's ability and willingness to make us prosper and live in peace. God is able to do this, but His willingness is connected in a large measure to our faithfulness and our generosity in giving. And also, a promise to surprise us. Go ahead, see if you can out give God, go ahead. See for yourself how creative and generous God can be in blessing you. We never know where and when the blessings come and He blesses us in the most ingenious ways, so we are surprised, we are in awe, we are amazed at how wonderful He is.
This will require three decisions on your part, and I close with these this morning.
1. Giving as a Christian
Decision number one, a decision to give as a Christian. Christians give according to the Bible, as I read previously. We set aside a certain amount, a percentage from all of our income and wealth, salary, commissions, bonuses, tax backs, interest, gifts, whatever. If I get a gift, part of that goes to the Lord. We give every Sunday, not just when we're here. If we miss, we keep that portion for the Lord and we add it when we come back. If you are a Christian, then you should give like a Christian is instructed to give from the scripture, not what the preacher is saying, not what the elders are saying, this is what the scripture says.
2. Develop a Giving Plan
Secondly, develop a giving plan. We plan for our pensions and they only take care of us for a few years. We should also have guidelines and plans for our giving to the church, that will last forever. Give the bulk of your offering to your home congregation, I always encourage that. If the local church and leadership is strong, then the programs for youth and missions and benevolence will also be strong.
Give first and foremost to your home congregation, because it is responsible for your most important assets: your soul and the souls of your family. Part of the plan, of course, is to give first to the Lord. If we wait until the last minute to figure out our offering, then there's usually not much left. When the first portion goes to the Lord, the Lord will enable us to live on the rest.
Another element of this plan is to increase your offering regularly. Look for extra ways and times to give, as the Lord leads you. Review your giving also so you can increase.
Lise and I, we have a little- what we call our crazy money, but our crazy money isn't crazy for us, it's our crazy giving money. Giving to something that just comes up out of nowhere. We have a fund for that, because we know that a need will arise at some point that we'll be called upon to give. So we've got this little crazy money here, that we have access to, so we can give when the opportunity presents itself. We plan for it.
Review your giving so you can increase your percentage on a regular basis, and make sure the church is in your will. Remember you can't out-give God. Increasing your giving merely increases your blessings.
3. Dedicate All Your Wealth to the Lord
And so, give like a Christian, develop a giving plan, and then finally, dedicate all of your wealth to the Lord. Everything we have belongs to God and by rights we should give it all to Him. He recognizes that we need to live, so He permits us to give Him a portion of our wealth as a way of dedicating or purifying all of our wealth beforehand.
Every time we remove the first portion to give to the Lord, we have made holy and acceptable everything else in our life. If we don't, it remains unholy and unacceptable to the Lord.
Well, I pray that today will be the beginning of dedicated planning and generous giving in this congregation, for many individuals who have not done this in the past, so that we may begin being surprised by the many blessings that God will rain down upon our heads. And He will and He has.
And so, if you need to come forward to become a Christian or to be restored as a faithful Christian, then we'll sing a song in a moment. If you also need to make a change in your giving, then please make that decision to do that. Talk to your spouse and have a serious discussion about this part of your Christian life today. If anyone needs to respond to the invitation at this moment, Johnny is going to lead us in a song now. Shall we stand and sing, as those who need to, will come forward.