"Managing Money God's Way" part 1
Being Generous Toward God
by Greg Hanson

I got a phone call last week from the police station during their annual fund-raising campaign for Child Find. Boy, that annoys me. All they ever want is my money.

And then the Red Cross. They gave me a call, too. What’s up with that? They’re always asking for my money and I never get anything from them in return.

I checked the mail, and there was some generic form letter from World Vision asking for money. How dare they!

Then I got another call from some group doing cancer research. Just because my mother has battled cancer, they think I’d want to support their research. Of all the nerve.

Actually, I don’t mind those kinds of calls. And I bet you don’t, either. You understand that these good, trustworthy organizations are doing some important work and that they need funding to continue that work.

So why is that that people get their tails in a tizzy when the Church talks about money? There have been surveys done that have asked people who don’t attend church why they don’t. And at or near the top of every survey has been the response that the Church is only looking for their money.

A few years ago when the final Star Wars film was released, I did a message series called “The Gospel According to Star Wars” and CBC found out about it. So they called and set up an interview on CBC Newsworld about the spiritual themes in the Star Wars series. And when the interview was done, they were switching over to some financial news and so the host said something like, “I don’t know what that pastor makes or what he gets in his offerings, but…” Do you think they would have made that comment about any other profession? I doubt it.

So why all the negative associations between the Church and money?

I suppose it could be that there have been some church leaders who have misused funds they were entrusted with, including some high profile cases. But the truth is, that’s happened in an extremely small percentage of cases… as in a percentage of a percentage… and probably not as often as in other kinds of organizations.

Maybe some people are upset when the Church asks for money because they don’t think they get bang for the buck. I mean, you go to a restaurant and you get food for your money. You go to the theatre, and you pay an admission charge to see the movie. But when it comes to church, you can give money and you still get the exact same services that the person who gave nothing gets.

But here’s the difference: Your own personal spiritual growth… your relationship with God… hinges on your willingness to honour God in every area of life, including your finances. Giving to God is not about helping the church meet a budget; it’s about learning to trust God. It’s about expressing your love for Jesus and your support for what He wants to do in this world.

We’re starting a new series this morning called, “Managing Money God’s Way.” We’re going to look at some of the financial principles contained within the pages of the Bible about spending, investing, saving, and yes, even about tithing.

Let me show you a video. This is a video of something that happened at 12Stone Wesleyan Church, which I believe is currently the largest Wesleyan Church in North America.

[VIDEO – TITHE RAP http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwfMMN71xUw]

Add that to the list of things white men shouldn’t try.

Here’s some trivia for you. In the Bible the word ______ appears _____ times.

Believe – 273
Pray – 371
Love – 714
Give – 2172

Do you think God wants His people to be generous? I sure think so. In fact, we just came through the Christmas season during which we talked about how God so willingly and lovingly gave of Himself. He gave up everything He had in order to enter into Creation and be born as a baby for us. And eventually that baby grew up and gave up His life on the cross. God Himself is generous. He gave until it hurt. God gave everything for you and for me. And so He wants us to learn to be generous, too.

Now, there are a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions about this whole notion of tithing. So let me clear some of that up. Here are some things tithing is not.

Tithing Is Not…

1.    Payment for services rendered

You take your car to the garage to have some work done on it. They do the work, and when it’s all ready you go up to the counter to pay. What are you going to pay? You’re going to pay for all the parts that were necessary for the job and you’re going to pay for the time it took for the mechanic to do the work. You’re going to pay parts and labour. And you’re going to pay them specifically for the work they did for you and not the work they did for someone else or the work that they didn’t do at all. You’re paying for services rendered to you.

But if that’s what you view tithing to be, then you’re way off base. That’s not what tithing is at all. It’s not payment for services rendered.

2.    An admission fee

It’s not like when you go to the movie theatre and to get in you pay an admission fee. You don’t come to the service today and think, “Well, I’m here. I’d better put something in. And if Greg does really well, I might include a tip.”

You know, some people give like that. But that’s not tithing. Shera and I tithe at least ten percent of our income to this church whether we’re here or not. It doesn’t matter who’s here or who isn’t here, it doesn’t matter how good the service is (though we always try to give our very best), it doesn’t matter what other bills we have to pay… because we’re giving our tithe to God, not the Church.

As a Christ-follower, everything I have actually belongs to God. And I’ve pledged to use it in God-honouring ways. It’s not my money; it’s His money. And when money is given to God through the church, that doesn’t make it our money; it’s still His money. And we must use it responsibly to carry on His work. We take that responsibility seriously.

3.    Membership dues

There are no special privileges you get here at Sunrise because you give. You don’t buy an extra vote at church meetings or anything like that. It doesn’t mean that you get to sit in the comfy chairs while others have to sit on the floor. You don’t pay membership dues and gain those kinds of advantages.

Oh, and we’re not going to come around to your door once a year looking for you to pay up, either. Your tithe is not a membership due and we’re not going to treat it that way.

4.    A get-rich-quick investment strategy

You’ll hear some TV preachers preach this, and you’ll even find one or two preachers here in Charlottetown that will tell you this. They’ll promise you that if you give to God then he’s going to make you prosper. Give him $100; He’ll give you $1000. Give Him $1000; He’ll give you $10,000. It’s called a Prosperity Theology, and it’s wrong. God does not make that promise to you, you can’t make Him obligated to you in that way, and there are plenty of examples in the Bible and throughout history of God-honouring people who were poor and stayed poor.

On the flip side, you’ll get a Poverty Theology. Think about the monks living in monasteries. A poverty theology tells you that you have to give everything away. If you keep anything for yourself, you’re not really living to please God. But again that’s a wrong perspective on possessions.

The right perspective is that everything we have comes from God and belongs to God, and He has entrusted us to use it as He directs. Maybe He will bless you and you will become wealthy. Or, maybe He will ask you to give it all way. For most of us, I think we’ll stay somewhere in the middle. But it’s only as God sees fit. It’s about being a wise manager and a faithful steward of what He has given us. When you are, I do believe you’ll find that your existing wealth seems to stretch a bit further.

So what percentage is He asking you to give?

5.    A Church-devised system to pay the bills

Giving your tithes and offerings to God through the church isn’t something churches invented in order to get your money. It’s something that’s rooted in the Bible… in the Old Testament and the New Testament. It was instituted by God, not by the Church.

Okay, so if that’s what tithing is not, then what is it?

Tithing Is…

1.    A step of obedience

This one’s pretty simple. God has asked each one of us to give to Him first. We don’t wait to see what’s leftover at the end of the week; we give to Him first. That’s what He’s asked us to do. The question is, will we do it?

1 Corinthians 16:2 (NLT)
On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.

2.    An act of worship

I know Christmas is over, but let’s talk about the Wise Men again. They traveled a long way to find Jesus and they did it for a reason. Do you remember what it was? They told King Herod…

Matthew 2:2 (NLT)
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

They came to worship Him. So when they finally found Jesus, how did they worship Him?

Matthew 2:11 (NLT)
…They opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

How did they worship? They gave gifts. Giving gifts is an act of love and adoration and worship. You’re not really worshipping Him until you’re worshipping Him completely, with everything you’ve got.

3.    An expression of trust

I think this may be the reason tithing is so hard for so many people. They have a trust issue. In fact, I’d bet it’s more of an issue for men than for women. Not exclusively, but men probably struggle more with this than women. Why? Because we want to be in control.

But trust is about letting someone else be in control, isn’t it? It’s about believing someone’s going to keep their word and come through on their promises. They’re going to hold up their end of the bargain. Well, take a look at these verses…

Malachi 3:8, 10 (NLT)
“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me… Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”

Matthew 6:25, 32-33 (NLT)
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? …
“These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

What’s God saying? He’s saying, “Give to me first. I’ve given it all to you anyway, and I’m asking you to give some of it back. I know you’ve got other concerns, too. Don’t worry about it; I’ll help you with those, too. Trust Me on this.”

This is where the rubber hits the road, isn’t it? When a person decides they’re going to trust God on this and take Him at His word, this is when a lot of people really start to experience tremendous spiritual growth. Their unwillingness to trust had been holding them back, but once they start to trust Him in this area (which is probably the toughest area), they’re set free to grow exponentially.

That leads us to the next thing tithing is…

4.    A catalyst for spiritual growth

Listen… this is the most important thing I’m saying here this morning. If you’ve tuned me out so far, then tune back in for this. Because being generous and giving to God is a catalyst for your spiritual growth.

Why? Because it’s not just about money management. It’s about not letting money manage you. When your possessions possess you, they’re not going to let you grow. They’re not going to allow you to experience everything God has planned for you. They’re going to keep you from growing spiritually.

But as soon as you break the hold that your possessions and you money has on you, you’ll be free to grow in the grace of God. You can reach new depths in your relationship with Him.

[VISUAL – HEART-SHAPED BALLOON (monopoly money tied to other end)]

I bet you’re wondering why I’m holding a red heart-shaped balloon. Well, look at what’s at the other end of the ribbon. You’ve got a wad of cash (Monopoly money) and a heart tied together. Where one goes, the other goes. But which one leads?

Is this how you would carry these? [hold balloon and pull cash across the floor.] No, the heart doesn’t lead. Instead, you’d hold onto the money and the heart will follow it. [Hold the money and allow the heart to follow along behind.]

That’s the way it works… your heart follows your treasure, not the other way around. If you want to grow spiritually… if you want your heart to be fully devoted to Jesus Christ… then it’s only going to happen as you choose to lead with your treasure.

Matthew 6:21 (NIV)
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Tithing is about your own spiritual growth more than anything else. It’s not about being legalistic; it’s about spiritual growth. Do you understand that? You are asked to tithe because it benefits you. God doesn’t need your money. But He knows the hold that money can have on you and on me, and so He asks us to give to Him in order to break that hold. He teaches us…

Luke 12:15 (NIV)
“Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

He tells us…

Hebrews 13:5 (NLT)
Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.

In Matthew chapter 19, there’s the account of a rich man who came to Jesus to ask how to receive eternal life. This rich man was a good man… he had faithfully kept the Ten Commandments, he lived the best life he knew how, but he still knew he was lacking something. So…

Matthew 19:21 (NLT)
Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

What was his problem? His possessions were in possession of him. He had to break the grip his wealth had on him if he hoped to grow spiritually and become all God intended him to be.

5.    A privilege to participate in God’s ministry

Do you realize what a privilege it is to partner with God in this way? God invites us to invest in His Kingdom building work. He gives us a role to play in transforming lives.

The Christ-followers in Macedonia understood this honour. Take a look at what the apostle Paul wrote about them…

2 Corinthians 8:2-4 (NLT)
They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.
For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem.

Did you catch that? The Macedonians were going through a tough time, they didn’t really have money to spare, they were living poverty, but yet they still gave willingly and generously. In fact, they begged for the privilege of giving even more. “Oh, Paul, we know we’ve already given a lot and more than anyone could expect of us, but could we give even more?” Paul was amazed at their generosity. And why were they being so generous? Because they understood that by giving generously, they were participating in real ministry.

Tithing is intended to be a regular practice for every fully devoted follower of Jesus. If you are going to honour Him, obey Him, trust Him, and partner with Him, then you are going to give to Him generously, worshipfully, and faithfully.

We’re going to talk more about this over the next few weeks leading up to our Consecration Sunday. And all through this month, I’m going to encourage you to ask yourself the question, “What percentage of my income is God asking me to give to Him through this church?”

Now, I realize that tithing is a big step. Especially knowing the financial situations some of you find yourselves in right now, I understand that it’s difficult. And I’m sensitive to that. In fact, throughout our history here at Sunrise we have been especially careful in addressing this topic specifically because it can be so sensitive.

But you need to understand, the Bible talks regularly and unapologetically about money. And if I am going to be faithful as a pastor in teaching the Word of God, then we need to talk about this. Because you cannot grow and experience all that God has planned for you until you are honouring Him with your finances.

So what percentage of your income is God asking you to give? Maybe it is a full tithe. Or if you’re currently giving, say, 2 percent, maybe He’s asking you to step it up to 4-5 percent. With the eventual goal to honour Him with a full tithe. Start thinking about this and praying about it. And on Consecration Sunday, I’m going to ask you to answer that question.


Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson