When it comes to money, there is a wide range of opinions.
- “Whoever says money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.” Donald Trump
- “If riches are a curse, may God smite me with it and may I never recover!” Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.
- “Get all you can; put it in a can; protect that can!”
While we may pursue affluence, we live with a scarcity mentality—there is only so much to go around so you better not squander it. This attitude creeps into the church and our approach to worship.
According to Barna Research:
- The average person gives 2.1% of their income to charitable causes.
- 17% of Christians say that they “tithe” (give 10% of their income to God’s work).
- Only 3% actually give that amount.
Many pastors avoid talking about money for various reasons:
- It makes everyone uncomfortable, and we want people to be happy.
- People believe it is a personal issue, a private matter.
- We don’t want to offend newcomers.
- We want to avoid the stereotype of “The church only talks about money.”
When you study the Scriptures, you discover:
- About 500 verses on prayer.
- Fewer than 500 verses on faith.
- 2,300 verses that deal with money and possessions.
- 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.
- Money is a barometer of our spiritual health.
In light of what Scripture teaches, our church is beginning a five-part series on Generosity. The theme of the series comes from 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.
“…whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Giving demonstrates our Dependence on God (Mark 12:41-44).
After Jesus finished his public teaching in the Court of the Gentiles (Mark 11:27-12:40), he entered the Court of the Women. Against one wall of this court were 13 trumpet-shaped collection boxes for receiving worshipers’ freewill offerings. Many people gave large amounts, and Jesus did not condemn them or comment on their gifts. One unnamed widow gave two lepta (Mark 12:41-44). This was the smallest bronze Jewish coin in circulation. Two of them put together added up to less than one penny in value.
Jesus said that the widow gave more than all the others. Most gave out of their material wealth at little cost to them. The widow gave everything she had out of her poverty. Most gave what they could spare. The widow spared nothing.
Her gift illustrates that generosity is not determined by the amount, but by the attitude with which it is given. The question is not, “How much did you give?” but, “How much did it cost you to give?”
Giving is an Act of Worship (Proverbs 3:9-10).
If you wanted to invite your mayor, senator, governor, or president over to house for dinner, would you serve them leftovers? Then why do we approach worship with the attitude of “If there is any … money after I pay bills … time after work and bowling … energy after I take care of family … money after my vacation … time after I watch the game … then I will give, serve, and/or worship.”
Proverbs 3:9-10 explains that we are to give God our first and best. Far too often, we give God our leftovers. We honor ourselves with our wealth and give God what we can afford to do without.
These verses point out the proper sequence—we give, and then God blesses. Too often, we get this backwards. We say, when God blesses me and meets my needs, then I will give. The proper order is … Give … honor God with the first and best … then he will bless and meet needs.
If we give a 15% tip for good service at a restaurant, why do we balk at honoring God with our finances when he gave us salvation?
Giving is an Act of Obedience and Faith (Malachi 3:10-12).
The command in Malachi 3:10, “put me to the test,” confuses us. We’ve been told never to test God, and yet this says it’s ok. It helps to understand that there are three words for test in the Hebrew language.
- “nasa” means testing God in the sense of challenging or disputing his presence or power and thus provoking him to anger.
- “sarap” means testing or refining a substance such as gold.
- “bahan” means testing with the idea of proving the dependability of something.
It is this third word, “bahan,” that is used in Malachi 3:10. We are to test God to prove he keeps his promises.
God challenges us to prove that his promises are true about giving. If we give, God will meet our needs. While this instruction is linked to Israel and the Old Testament Law, it is echoed in Luke 6:38 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. This is a command and a promise for us today.
If we take God at his word and give generously, what might he do to meet our needs (Malachi 3:11-12)? Could he cause our car to be more fuel efficient so we spend less money on gas? Could he prevent our children’s teeth from getting cavities so we spend less money at the dentist office? Could God cause our clothes not to wear out so we spend less money on clothing? If we take God at his word and give generously, what might he do to meet our needs?
Over the next 90 days, I want to encourage you to put God to the test regarding his promise about giving. Between now and December 31 (which technically is 96 days, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as 90 days), please consider making the following commitments:
- I will worship God with my giving.
- I will give generously.
- I will give my first and my best.
- I will trust God to provide for my needs.
- I will look to see how God meets my needs.
- I will share the results so others can praise God.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on September 27, 2015. It is opening message in a series on Generosity. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.