If the statistics are true, Christ followers don’t always live out their convictions.
- The average person in America gives 2% of their income to charitable causes.
- 17% of Christians say that they “tithe” (give 10% of their income to God’s work).
- Only 5% actually give that amount.
Despite the statistics, when was the last time you heard a sermon about money and giving? Most pastors avoid the subject. Many people say it’s a private matter and should not be addressed from the pulpit.
There are about 500 verses in the Bible on prayer. There are fewer than 500 verses on faith. But there are 2,300 verses in Scripture that deal with money and possessions. In fact, Jesus said more about money than he did about any other subject, including heaven and hell combined. Over 10% of the New Testament relates directly to financial matters. Because money is a barometer of one’s spiritual health, it needs to be addressed from the pulpit.
We need to change our minds when it comes to the subject of money and giving. It begins with having a correct understanding that God owns everything (Psalm 24:1) and giving is an act of worship (Proverbs 3:9-10).
Many of us respond with a “Yes, but …” to the instruction, “Honor the Lord with your wealth” (Proverbs 3:9). “Yes,” we admit, “giving is an act of worship, but since I’m not wealthy, I don’t have to give,” is our reply. Unfortunately, many of us are ignorant of the facts about wealth. 40% of the world’s population, 2.6 billion people, lives on less than $2 a day. 15 percent, 1 billion people, live on less than $1 day. 4.5%, 0.3 billion, live on $108 a day, and they are all in the USA. If we live in the USA, we are among the world’s wealthiest people. Thus, we should be the best worshippers of all.
The verse goes on to say that we are to honor God with the “firstfruits of all your produce.” Far too often, I give God my leftovers. If I have money left at the end of month, if I have time left at the end of the day, if I have energy left at the end of the workweek, then I will worship God. God wants the first and the best.
Once we honor God, “then your barns will be filled.” Many of us get it backwards. We say, if God blesses, then I will give. Scripture teaches that we give to God and then he blesses us.
Malachi 3:8-10 goes so far as to say that many of us are robbing God of the worship that belongs to him because we withhold our giving. We miss out on God’s richest blessings because we won’t give.
We’ve been taught that we are never to put God to the test. And yet, Malachi 3:10 explains there is one area where we are specifically to test him.
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”
What might God do if we took him at his word?
Granted, you could say that Proverbs 3:9-10 and Malachi 3:8-10 are Old Testament scriptures written to Israel and not applicable to us today. That is true. But the apostle Paul presents the same principle in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 where he lays out the cycle of grace giving.
The cycle begins when we give to God (6-7). Like the woman who gave her last two pennies (Mark 12:41-44), our generosity is best determined by what we give when we have little. After we give, God’s pours out his abundant grace to us (8a).
The question is, what might this look like? Going back to Malachi 3, verse 11 adds, “I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that I will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear.” If we give to God, could he cause our clothes to last longer … tires to go farther … car to get better gas mileage … groceries to cost less … neighbors to offer free babysitting … health to remain strong … employer to increase our salary …? If we step out in faith and give, how might God bless us?
We give and God blesses. But the cycle doesn’t stop there. Because of his blessings, we then give more back to God (8b), which God follows up with even more blessings (10-11). As a result, needs are met (12a) and God is glorified (12b-15).
Put God to the test. Take him at his word. Honor God with your money and see how he meets your needs.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 22, 2014. It is part of a series on The Heart of Worship. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.