GIVING IT ALL YOU’VE GOT SERMON SERIES
GOD’S STANDARD OF GIVING
OCTOBER 16, 1994
It is the second greatest theme in the Bible next to salvation. In fact, Jesus talked more about this subject than He did heaven, hell or prayer. One out of six verses in the gospels deal with this subject. Half of the parables Christ used talked about it. What is the subject? What is the topic? Giving. If you understand giving, you understand the essence of Christianity. In fact, if you study the Bible at all, eventually you are going to have to study giving. Let me illustrate what I am talking about. If you have a pen or a pencil handy, write this on your outline. The word believe is used 272 times in the Bible. I think if you know anything about Christianity you would say the word believe is pretty important. Believe, 272 times. The word pray, Christians should pray. Pray is used 371 times. Pray, 371. The word love, God is love the Bible tells us. The word love is used 714 times. That’s pretty important. But, have your drumsticks out. The word give is used 2,162 times. I will say it again. If I don’t understand God’s standard of giving, then I don’t understand what it means to truly know Jesus Christ personally. I am clueless. I am out to lunch. Jesus, in fact, put this concept in a nutshell in Matthew 6:38. It is not on your outline, just listen to these words. Jesus, in no uncertain terms, talks about God’s standard of giving. Here we go. “Give and it will be given to you for with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” That verse sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Give and it will be given back to you. Wow. Incredible, unbelievable, I want to get in on that.
I am sure most of you are sitting on the edge of your theater seats saying, “Oh boy, God’s standard of giving. Is that unbelievable?” It is. But the question is, how does God give back to me? What do I receive when I give to God?
Today I am going to ask and we are going to answer two simple yet profound questions. The first question is the first point on your outline. Why? Why should I follow God’s standard of giving? It says give and it will be given back to you for the measure you use will be returned to you. Why should I follow God’s standard of giving? Some of you are asking that. I want to give you four benefits of giving, to show you how awesome God is.
First, giving teaches me to put God first. Giving teaches me to put God first. Here is what the Bible says in Deuteronomy 14:23. “The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives.” See the word teach? That is why we tithe. That is why we give. God doesn’t need our money. He is not some cosmic cash register. “Give me your money. I will take some from you, some from you, some from this church and I will invest it here and there and yonder.” God owns it all. He is our creator, our sustainer. He doesn’t need our money but He said, “I want you, people that I love, people that matter to Me, I want you to give as a reminder that I am first place, that I am Lord in your life.”
In a couple of hours the Dallas Cowboys play the Philadelphia Eagles for first place in the NFC East. And everyone will watch this great football game. Our eyes will be glued to the tube. Wow. And it will be going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth until one team will walk off the field shouting “We’re number one. We are number one, number one, number one.”
And in your life and my life right now there is a struggle going on. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Who is going to be number one? The creature or the creator? Who is it? Jesus said give and you are showing God in a tangible way, “God, you are Lord. I am following you. You are running the show.” What if, after this service, I walked up to you and in casual conversation said, “You know what? I like golf. I really love golf.” And you would begin to talk to me a little bit and say, “Well, Ed, do you ever spend any money on golf?” And what if I said, “A couple of dollars now and then, that’s about it.” Then you would say, “Well, Ed, do you ever play golf or watch golf on television?” “Oh, no not really. I don’t.” And you would think to yourself, is this guy nuts? On the one hand he is telling me he loves golf, yet neither his wallet, his time nor his energy reflects that. I meet people time and time again who tell me that they love God. I love Jesus. I am filled with the Holy Spirit. I am a man on fire for God. I am a woman on fire for God. Yet they tip God financially. They give Him the leftovers. They don’t go to church regularly but they maintain that they are Christian, born again, love Jesus. This is a test. The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives. People talk about priorities. You begin to pay God first, it will keep your priorities straight.
Matthew 6:21. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where your treasure is, where your money is, that is where your heart is going to be. If my money is in entertainment, if my money is in my house, if my money is in my cars, then that is where my heart is. But God says, put your money, put your resources where I am. Giving teaches me to put God first.
Secondly, giving prevents materialism. Giving prevents materialism. The people I know who are great givers are not materialistic. Giving has a way of preventing materialism. Look what the word of God tells us. I Timothy 6:17-19. “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant.” And how many times have you heard this? “I’m a self-made man.” “I’m a self-made woman.” The Book of Genesis tells us we were put on this earth for one reason and that is to manage, to take care of God’s creation. He is the owner, we are the manager. And the word manager means stewardship. That is the essence of Christianity. Here is what we do though. We kind of get the rolls reversed. We begin to manage God’s creation, we begin to kind of run this thing and we suddenly think, hey, it’s mine. I am going to take it. I am going to be selfish. But God says we must remember our place. “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth.”
Do you realize that if you have more than one change of clothes you are loaded? I am talking about megabucks. Your lifestyle is part of the rich and famous for the rest of the world. If you have one change of clothes. So all of us, we are wealthy. I had never really been around wealthy people until I got into high school. My family and I moved from Columbia, SC to Houston, TX. The church my father pastored is in the middle of one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country. By now I have met a lot of wealthy people. I know some real well. Here is what I found out about most of them, not all! Most are the loneliest people I have ever known. Lonely. I had someone tell me one day, “You know the rich have one advantage over the poor. At least they figure out things don’t satisfy. The poor haven’t figured that out yet.” There is a lot of truth in that.
So God’s word encourages me not to put my hope in wealth because it is so uncertain. Our hope must be placed in God who richly provides us with everything for a decent life. Is that what it says? No, not for a decent life, for our enjoyment. “Command them (the rich) to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” Circle the word share. “In this way they take hold of the life that is truly life.” You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give. It is sad to say but those who are wealthy give less in proportion than those who are middle class or lower middle class or poor. Yet our world applauds the rich. Robert Redford gives half a million dollars to a foundation in Colorado. “Oh, Robert, you are incredible, you’re the man, you’re so generous, you’re so great. Oh, thank you, Robert, thank you.” Robert giving a half a million dollars is like me giving you a quarter. What kind of generosity is that? You see God does not look at the amount. He looks at what is left over. It is not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice. The more the wealthy make, the less they give. The more they make the less they give. The more they make the less they give. And they become a spiritual dam.
A couple of years ago Lisa and I traveled to Las Vegas, NV to sightsee. On one of our day trips we went out to Hoover Dam. Have you ever seen Hoover Dam? An awesome sight. I am not really a sightsee type guy. I am not the guy with the camera and the black socks, that is not my scene. Lisa, though, she loves to go on tourist-type adventures. In fact, we nicknamed her the tourist. So we went to Hoover Dam which I confess I liked. It was a massive structure holding back hundreds and thousands of tons of water. So much power there. But it is holding the water in. Spiritually speaking, from a financial perspective, a lot of people are damming up God’s resources. God doesn’t want you to be a spiritual dam, He wants you to be a river. Here is the concept. God gives to me. And because God gives to me, I am to be like God. I know God personally, I am to become a giving person. I should give to others. He keeps giving to me, I give to others, He gives to me, I give to others. Then I am like a river. So basically, are you a dam or a river? God says become a river. Test me on this.
See the word share? Naturally we don’t share, do we? We are selfish. No one taught me how to be selfish. I am just selfish. If you don’t believe it just have a baby. Or go over to our nursery and preschool area. You will see little kids saying, “That’s mine.” They cry when something doesn’t go their way.
A couple of years ago I wrote a song. Some of you don’t know this but I am a song writer. I write songs for my children now and then. LeeBeth was having trouble learning the concept of sharing. What I would do was, if she had a Mr. Microphone, I would ask if I could have it. She would answer, “No, it’s mine.” Then I asked her to listen to a song. Listen because the lyrics are very complicated. Ready? “Share, share, share. LeeBeth likes to share.” Then I would take the object from her. “Share, share, share. SHARE.” Then I would go like this. “Share, share, share. Daddy likes to share.” “Wow, Daddy.” Now the title of that song is “Share”. And as you leave I have some CDs out front, “Share” by Ed Young. That is what God is telling us throughout His word, time and time again. We will see it in our scripture verses today. Share. Be generous. Share. Give. Giving prevents materialism. Parents you say that you don’t want your kids to be materialistic. I say start giving.
Benefit number three. Giving strengthens your faith. It is like taking some steroids, spiritual steroids. You become like Arnold. Here is what it says in Malachi 3:10. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.” The word tithe refers to the word ten, ten percent in the Hebrew is what it means. Ten percent of your salary, benefits and bonuses, is to be given to the storehouse. The word storehouse in the Hebrew means the local fellowship to which God has called you. So bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. “Test me in this”, God says. Just try Me. Take a risk. Just one month, “test Me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” You see, all I am doing when I talk about giving is helping you out. And I always say, every time I preach on giving, if you get upset, just put cotton in your ears because I am not going deprive all others of the blessing. I am really not. That is how primary and prominent it is in the word of God. Malachi 3:10 says that if we come to God with a teacup offering, we will get a teacup blessing back. On the other hand, Malachi 3:10 says that if we give an eighteen wheeler truckload offering, whoom, what is going to happen? Look at the promise. You will receive so much blessing that you won’t be able to handle it.
Blessing number four. Giving invests my life in eternity. Now God is going to give us here some insider information. Listen to this. I Timothy 6:18-19. “Give happily to those in need always being ready to share with others what God has given you. By doing this you will be storing up real treasure for yourself in heaven.” It is the only safe investment for eternity. You can’t take it with you but you can send it on ahead. How do you send it on ahead? You invest your money in people who are going there. It is an eternal investment. No risks involved. That is basically why I should follow God’s standard of giving, right from the Bible.
Let’s conclude with this final question on your outline. How do I follow God’s standard of giving. First, give willingly. Give willingly. The Bible says in II Corinthians 8:12, “For if the willingness is there (not wealth but willingness) the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” You see God does not look at the size of the gift, he looks at the sacrifice, how much is left over. Look at II Corinthians 9:7. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give.” Circle that phrase, in his heart to give. It is a personal thing. It is between you and God. It is between me and God. What is sacrifice for me, is going to be different for you. But you have got to pray about it and decide in your heart what you should give. Give, the Bible says, not reluctantly or under compulsion. That is why we have printed in our bulletin and I say it every time we take an offering. “If you are a guest, if you are visiting with us, it is not your time to give. Hold onto your wallets and purses. But if you are a member of our church it is your time to give.” If you are not giving joyfully, don’t give. Don’t give. Don’t give under pressure or manipulation, only Biblically. Second, give graciously. I am to give willingly and I am to give graciously. Psalm 116:12. “How can I repay the Lord for all of His goodness to me?” Have you ever thought about who decided to have you born, here in this country, in this situation, in this family, in this circle of friends, having these gifts and abilities? It was God. God in His sovereignty decided where you would live and where I would live. We could have easily been born in Haiti, in Bangladesh. But He decided because of His love and purpose for us to be born right here. Have you thanked God for it? I love II Corinthians 9:7, “God loves a cheerful giver.” We get the word hilarious from the Greek word cheerful. And back in the early church the offering was the ultimate in the service. They freaked out when they took the offering. In modern churches, people say, oh, no the offering. But in the early church, those people knew how to give.
Third, give regularly. I am to give willingly, graciously and regularly. The Bible says in I Corinthians 16:2, “On every Lord’s day each of you should put aside something of what you have earned during the week.” In the Old Testament you have a word, tithe, which means ten percent. In the New Testament you have a term, offering. It was a given in the New Testament that you gave at least ten percent. An offering was over and above the ten percent and most committed believers gave thirty to forty percent to the local church. And every Lord’s day each of you should put aside something of what you have earned during the week and use it for this offering.
There are two blockades to spiritual maturity that I see in our world today but especially in the US. Here is a person who receives Jesus Christ and enters the family of God. If they don’t do these two things they will never grow, they will never get deep in the Word. The first is if they don’t get baptized. Baptism is a command in scripture. You can line up every single verse about baptism. The Bible says, first they believed, then they were baptized. When we started this church we said that we were going to do what the Bible says. The Bible is our authority and the Bible says we are to be baptized by emersion. If you have been sprinkled, that is great. But I would challenge you and encourage you to be emersed. The Greek word for baptism means to dunk. And there were two prepositions in the Greek, one meaning into and one meaning out of. There is no doubt about it. Martin Luther said it, John Calvin said it, the Wesley brothers said it. Emersion is the way to go. Not getting baptized is a blockade to spiritual maturity.
The second blockade is the lack of giving. Lack of giving. Two blockades to spiritual growth. If you want to begin to really grow, obey these elementary commands, get baptized and give regularly. Along with that, read God’s Word and pray, then wait and see what happens. So give regularly. Put aside something. This phrase put aside in I Corinthians 16:2, means to plan. It doesn’t mean to arbitrarily say, well I’ll kind of give this or that. That is why in the Build a Vision campaign we are talking about offerings, over and above your weekly tithes. It is something that Lisa and I prayed through, talked about and planned. Others have done the same thing. You have to do that. It is between you and the Lord Jesus Christ. The amount depends on how much the Lord has helped you earn. That is pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?
Fourth, give generously. Let me stop right here and take a quick time out. Look back at your outline where it says how do I follow God’s standard of giving. These concepts are pretty much the concepts and character of God. God gives willingly, He gives graciously, He gives regularly and He gives generously. Number four. I am to give generously. II Corinthians 9:6. “Remember this, whoever sows sparingly, will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will reap generously.” When a farmer goes out he doesn’t plant ten acres and expect to reap one hundred acres, does he? I mean even the dumb farmers on Green Acres didn’t do that. When you sow fifteen acres, you are going to reap fifteen acres. If you sow a thousand acres, you are going to reap a thousand acres. If I sow negativism or criticism, I am going to reap negativism or criticism. Or if I sow encouragement, I am going to reap encouragement. What are you sowing? Whatever you sow, that is what you are going to reap.
To summarize God’s standard of giving I want to take you back to a time in my life that I think most people here can connect with. I mean we can really get relevant on this one. I was in the fifth grade. I lived in Greenville, SC. A couple of days before Christmas each year back then our parents would load us up in a station wagon and take us out to the Greenville mall. We would go around the mall together looking at all the stores and we would ask our parents for some money. Dad would pull out his wallet and give each of us $10.00. We knew our assignments. Our assignments were to go out and buy my parents Christmas gifts with their own money. How many of you have ever done that before? OK. OK. We would go out and use all of our creativity and run from store to store and our parents would sit back and laugh and laugh. They had such a great time. Now that I am older, I look back on that and think how amazing. My parents were thrilled, they got a kick out of watching their children buy gifts for them using their money. They could have easily gone out and bought things themselves, but they wanted to see what we would give them.
That is God’s standard of giving. That is what God does in our lives. Everything we have is His and He gets a thrill, He gets joy out of watching His children return to Him what is His in the first place. We show Him our gratitude, our love and our concept of receiving His amazing grace. That is God’s standard of giving. You aren’t living if you don’t follow God’s standard of giving. The question is, are you living? Are you living?