Corinth

Exemplary Giving

“In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them....maybe you can hire The A-Team.”

One of my favorite TV shows growing up was the A-Team. As a 12 year old boy, I was drawn to its cool theme song, multiple explosions, and the fact that there would be at least one a car flipping over during the pivotal chase scene. Each episode was the same. Someone had a problem and they reached out to the A-Team. The A-Team would begin to try and solve the problem before hitting some sort of snag in the plan. The snag would then cause everyone to pull together and build some secret traps or special device to ensure victory.

            As I look back, I am only moderately impressed by the action sequences, the cheesy one liners and the explosions, but I still appreciate how everyone pulled together to snatch victory out of apparent defeat. Their success was only possible because everyone was willing to use their individual gifts to work for the corporate good. A team will always be more successful when everyone is willing to sacrifice for the mission. The early church understood their mission. We know that they understood the gravity and the responsibility of the mission given by King Jesus because of their willingness to work together to complete their mission. The early church was willing to give to complete the mission.

            The Apostle Paul traveled to preach the gospel to Gentiles. He traveled to plant churches. He traveled to encourage and strengthen the churches. He also traveled to collect money for the struggling saints in Jerusalem. One of the reasons Paul traveled on his missionary journeys was to organize a collection for the saints in Jerusalem. The saints were shut out of society and therefore could not earn and income. The only way the church was able to survive was by the generosity of believers in other cities.

            This morning, I want to encourage you to exemplary giving. We have a mission to make disciples, but in order to fulfill our mission we all are going to need to come together individually for the corporate good. Over the last several months, I have witnessed our congregation grow in unity. I do believe we are on the way to becoming an exemplary church, but we have hit a financial snag and have to pull together so that we can continue to complete our mission.

Exemplary Giving is a Sign

            How you handle money is a sign of whether you are a follower of Christ. We are called to be kingdom citizens. We have been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of the Beloved Son. We are now citizens of the kingdom of God. Are you living like a kingdom citizen? Paul writes to the wealthy Corinthian church saying he is sending for the collection of the saints. 2 Corinthians 9:1-7,

Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction. The point is this: 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. (2 Corinthians 9:1-7)

Paul had confidence that the Corinthian church would give to the need of the Jerusalem saints. He was confident and boasted in the willingness, but they had to actually give to prove their willingness. Paul implies that if the Corinthians didn’t give, both Paul and the Corinthians would be humiliated. Their giving would be a sign as their willingness to support the mission of the church. Would the church fulfill the promise that they made? It was a matter of their word.

            I believe there are many Christians who say they are willing to give, but the reality of the numbers claim that many Christians should be humiliated by what they give. According to a study last October (2014),

·         Only 3-5% of Americans who give to their local church do so through regular tithing.

·         When surveyed, 17% of Americans state that they regularly tithe.

·         For Christian families making less than $20k per year, 8% of them gave at least 10% in tithing. For families making a minimum of $75k or more, the figure drops to just 1%.

·         The average donation by adults who attend U.S. Protestant churches is about $17 a week.

·         37% of people who attend church every week and identify themselves as Evangelical don’t give any money to their church.

·         97% of Christians who tithe make it a top financial priority to give to their local church.

·         People who tithe regularly typically have less debt than other demographics – 8 out of 10 have zero credit card debt and 28% of them are completely debt free, including not having a mortgage.

·          77% of those who tithe give 11%–20% or more of their income, far more than the baseline of 10%.

·         If Christians followed the Old Testament standard of giving across the board, then $139 billion would become available every year for additional ministry work.[1]

The tithe or 10% was part of the Old Testament law. We are no longer bound by the law of Moses for we are no under the law of Christ. Romans 7:4, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” We have died to law through the body of Christ so that we might belong to Jesus Christ. We are now under the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).

            And if we have a better law than the law of Moses, then why did Old Testament saints give more than today’s Christians? If Christians gave according to the law, then $139 billion dollars would be available for God’s mission. Paul makes it pretty clear, “The point is this: 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.” We no longer have to give, but we get to give. For we get to reap a harvest of righteousness for the King of glory.

            I have heard this verse used often as an excuse of why people are not required to give their tithe to the church. And they are right, we are not required to give. But in not giving we reveal our hearts do not have God as our supreme treasure. Jesus said,

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:19-24)

Jesus then goes on to say how seeking after the things of this world, food, drink and clothing, is a reflection of the citizens of this world not those of the kingdom.

            A lack of giving is a spiritual problem. God loves a cheerful giver. He does not love a reluctant one. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart. And if you have decided in your heart not to give, this may be an indication of a lack of love for God or his gospel. God does not want your money, He wants your heart. He will use your money to get to your heart.

Exemplary Giving is Sustaining

            God sustains your giving. God supplies seed to the sower and bread for food and he will multiply both.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 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. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, (2 Corinthians 9:8-13)

There are many tangible benefits for being generous.

I just want to draw out one application of this text. Verse 12, “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying for the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgiving to God.” The giving of the saints was necessary to supply the needs of the saints. There are needs for ministry that must be met by the generosity of the saints. And when needs are met with generosity it leads to thanksgiving to God. It is a privilege to meet the needs of the saints for it encourages others to glorify and give thanksgiving to God.

            Have you ever had your needs met unexpectedly? Maybe you were facing a big house repair and you were unsure how it was going to be paid when a contractor shows up at your house and he tells you the work has already been paid for by someone else. What do you think the response will be? It will be joy and thanksgiving and giving glory to God. When we give to meet the needs of the saints it leads to God’s glory. It is a privilege to give. The Bible often pictures the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as an offering to pay off debt. Jesus gave his life as a ransom to buy us back from slavery and death. How much joy and thanksgiving and glory has Jesus’ payment brought into our world? The Bible says for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross. Jesus knew the great privilege it was to pay for the sins of the world because it resulted in the glory and honor and praise of God the Father.

            Do you see the motivation to give is not from guilt? We give for God’s glory. We give because God is our greatest treasure. And we give because our giving will result in others glorifying God. Giving to God’s people leads to God’s glory.

Exemplary Giving is Simple

Paul ultimately does not praise the Corinthians for their gift, but gives thanks to God for His surpassing grace and inexpressible gift that rests upon the Corinthians.

By their approval of this service (giving), they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Cor. 9:13-15)

The Corinthians give in response to the surpassing grace of God that rests upon them. God has given them an inexpressible gift so they are simply acting in kind. God gives to us so that we can give to others.

            Giving, like most of the Christian life, is simple, but it is not easy. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Money brings great temptation. Paul warns Timothy, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10) Do you love money more than gospel? Do you love money more than God’s glory?

            How you handle the gift of money is a sign of your treasure. God has given to us so we could give to others. God is generous with us, lavishing his grace upon us, so that we could lavish the riches of his grace on others. If you read the Bible, it should not take long for you to be convinced of the many benefits of giving. Giving is simple, but not easy. We have to decide in our hearts to give. A good starting point for Christians is to give their tithe (10%) to the local church. We know from Scripture that members are responsible to support the preaching ministry of the local church. 1 Timothy 5:17-18, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:17-18) “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” (Galatians 6:6) 1 Corinthians 9:9-12

Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?

Even here Paul uses the law as an example implying from the law that it is right to support teaching elders in the church. Yes, we are not under the law of Moses, but the law of Christ which is more excellent than the old covenant, for it is enacted on better promises (Hebrews 8:6). If we are now under the law of Christ, our giving should reflect that reality. If we gave according to the Old Testament standard, there would be $139 billion available for the ministry of Christ. Is Christ not better than the law?

            If you do not tithe, I am pleading with you to start today. Maybe you haven’t tithed because you never saw its importance or were never taught that you should. Or you haven’t tithed because you are struggling with debt and barely making ends meet. Whatever the reason, I am urging you to start tithing to your church. If you need help creating a budget, we have gifted individuals in this church that would be more than happy to help you on a path to wise financial stewardship. Your money shows what you value.

Someone once shared with me how they had never tithed because they never thought they could afford it. He really wanted to buy a new car so he started to rearrange his finances so that he could afford the car payments. After he bought the car, he realized that he could do the same thing with his tithe. It wasn’t an issue of ability, but of desire. Giving is simple, but not easy. Today, purpose in your heart to give.

Exemplary Giving is Sacrificial

            We have been entrusted with the gospel. We have a mission to make disciples of all nations. Over the last several years, our church has been slowly depleting its savings. We have been spending more than what we have been taking in. We have been slowly bleeding like a soldier in the field. We need to apply a tourniquet to the wound. Our finance committee wants to set our budget at our expenses, but to do so we would have to make cuts that would significantly impact our ministry. In order to set a realistic budget for our church, we are going to need a little over $27,000 more per year. We are trusting in God to provide for the needs of the church, but as we saw in our text this morning, God provides for the needs of the saints through the saints.

            Many of you are already giving sacrificially to the budget, and we are grateful for your sacrifice. We are grateful that because of years of wise financial stewardship we are in a better financial position than many churches. We are debt free and have some reserves, but we are not currently meeting our expenses through our weekly giving. We have cut our expenses by almost $30,000 already, which still leaves a gap of $27,000. We need to come together to meet this gap so that our ministry will continue to move forward. Everyone is in a different financial situation so we are asking everyone to look at your situation and see how God has blessed you to meet our shortfall.  We cannot move forward with a budget at our current expenses unless our church body is willing to sacrificially give to our needs. We need $27,600 to fill our budget gap. It may sound like a lot, but that is only 25 people giving $10 more a month, 20 people giving $30 more a month, 15 people to give $50 more a month, and 10 people to give $70 more a month. We need everyone to come together and look for places in your own budget to sacrifice so we can meet the difference in between our receipts and expenses. We can meet the goal if we all do our part.

 

            We are asking each family to make a pledge on what they plan to give next year. We want you to be praying over the next several weeks and we will collect the pledges on December 6th during our morning service. The goal is realistic, but it cannot be met unless we are all willing to sacrifice together. We are trusting in God to meet our budget through the generosity of the saints. Pray for God’s hand to be upon our church. We cannot out give God. He has given us so much and He promises to give even more. Let me close with one of my favorite Scriptures, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)

 

[1] http://healthresearchfunding.org/21-tithing-statistics/ accessed 11.14.2015