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Showing posts with label Tithing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tithing. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Transforming Gift of Giving


Introduction
We’ve been studying how the power of God transforms all believers through the Holy Spirit so that we in turn can help transform each other and the whole world.  The Holy Spirit everyone who follows Christ as Lord a special gift.  Romans 12:6-8 tells us tells us the Holy Spirit gives some the gift of Prophecy, others the gift of Serving, or Teaching, Encouraging, Giving, Leadership, or Kindness.  Today, we will consider the spiritual gift of giving.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.

Giving Transforms Lives
When I was 21 years old, I started volunteering as a youth counselor at East Cobb UMC in Marietta.  We had a wonderful Youth Pastor, Eddie Bradford, who did a wonderful job.  I was there as a volunteer to just hang out with the kids, build relationships, and offer encouragement.  The kids seemed to respond well and I was truly blessed to be with them.  The youth of that church, like most, took several trips every year--a ski trip in the winter, a beach trip in the summer and a few camping retreats throughout the year.  It was a great time for each kid to spend focused time building relationships with each other, the youth pastor and volunteers, and of course God.  The youth's parents paid a fee to cover the cost of their trips and of course the youth pastor was on the church staff so his cost was covered.  However, I was just a poor, broke and starving college kids.  My parents weren't even able to help me pay for college (I was working my own way through) so I had no money for youth trips.  Some of those trips could cost between $300-500.  Thankfully, there were a number of generous sponsors at East Cobb UMC who anonymously paid to cover the cost of any youth or counselor who couldn't pay for a trip.  Because of their giving, I was able to go and build deep relationships with the youth and with God.  I was never even able to thank those donors, because their giving was intentionally anonymous.  But look at what a fruitful investment they made.  I have been a minister now for 20 years and those early youth trips were a large contributing factor to my decision to follow this path.  So all the lives my ministry has touched is an extension of the financial gifts of those donors at East Cobb.  Their investment has born more fruit than they could have ever imagined when they gave.  Even my family has been dramatically effected, because all three of my kids and my wife grew up engaged in a parish ministry setting.

Every Christian is Called to Give
Every Christian is called to give.  It is built into the very identity of the Christian faith.  Jesus paid the ultimate price by dying on the cross in our place.  Christ gave his life to save us from sin and death and to offer us enteral life with God.  We become a Christian when we surrender to God.  We admit we are sinners who desperately need the saving grace of God.  We repent of our sin—primarily, the sin of thinking and acting as if our life belonged to us when, in fact, our life belongs to God because He made us and gave us a purpose.  So we repent and give our life to Jesus, God’s one and only Son.
  
Jesus talked about money a lot; more than prayer, sin, heaven, or hell.  He talked about money so much because he knew how much people value money.  Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21).  In other words: if your heart truly belongs to Jesus (because you’ve surrendered your life to him), then the things you treasure most deeply (including your money) will devoted to him too.  A quick test to see how much you “treasure” Jesus is too look at your finances.  What do you spend your money on?  How much is yourself?  How much is others?  How much is given directly to the things that really matter to Jesus?

The biblical standard for giving is 10%.  That means if you earn $50,000 per year, you would give $5,000 to Jesus through the Church.  This is called a tithe.  It was a law in the Old Testament and Jesus confirmed that people should tithe (Matthew 23:23).  I encourage all of you to tithe for two main reasons. 

First of all, it will bless the Church.  If every family here at Pleasant Grove gave a tithe we would have no trouble paying off our mortgage and paying our bills, and we would have plenty left over to do all kinds of incredible, life changing ministry—to kids, youth, adults, even seniors.  The simple fact is, the Church cannot reach it’s full potential because all of God’s people do not give what they are supposed to give.  That’s just the simple Truth.  But there’s another reason you should tithe. 

It will bless you.  Giving the tithe is a spiritual disciple every bit as important as prayer, reading your Bible, attending worship, and serving.  You cannot grow the way God wants you to grow if you are not giving. Period.

So, if you aren’t giving 10% of your income to God through His Church, I encourage you to start.  Maybe you don’t think you have the faith or money you need to jump right into 10% giving.  Then start with a lesser amount and work your way there.  Don’t just talk about it.  Make a plan.  How will you work your way to 10% giving?  How long will it take?  One year?  Two?  Five?  Make a plan and then implement it.  Perhaps you could start with 3% or 5% and gradually work your way up to 10% in a year or two.  It can be done.  I know it, because Kelly and I started tithing when we didn’t have any money—in our early 20s when our combined income was probably less than $15,000 a year.  The good thing about tithing is when your income is small, your tithing is small.  If your income is only $10,000 per year, your annual tithe would be $1,000 per year (or $83 per month or $19 per week).  As your income increases, your tithe will increase; but by then tithing will already be part of your habit and you won't have to struggle with it.

Christians are called to begin with a tithe, and then go further.  Just because you are already giving 10% of your income doesn’t mean you cross your arms and proudly exclaim, “I’m done!  I don’t have to give anymore.”  Remember what the old hymn says?  “Jesus gave it all!  All to him I owe!”  Therefore, always look for how you can give more to Jesus.  You will find it is a great blessing to give.

The Spiritual Gift of Giving
All Christians are called to give.  However, just like some Christians have the gift of music or the special ability to preach, other Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit with the special ability to give in order to help transform our world.  Those with the spiritual gift of giving have a special ability to understand the material needs of others and then give generously beyond the normal standard to meet those needs.
A giver’s basic motivation is to live frugally and save as much as they can so they can give as much as they in order to help others. Givers take special delight in figure out needs that most people overlook and then meeting those needs.  Givers delight to find less expensive ways to do things, so that the Church gets the most bang for their buck.  A giver’s family often thinks they are cheap—too concerned about counting pennies—but the people to whom they give think they are extremely generous.  Saving resources brings a giver almost as much pleasure as giving them, because they regard saving as the key that opens the door to even more resources. They seem to be able to accumulate savings, even in hard times.  Lastly, most givers prefer to stay out of the spotlight.  They often give anonymously in order to avoid recognition.  Their reward is knowing God’s Kingdom is thriving because of their gift.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Givers
Spiritually gifted givers have some great strengths to offer God’s Kingdom.  They tend to avoid impulsive spending.  They understand authority and expect to be held accountable and diligently hold others accountable.  They are usually hard workers with conservative values.  They often like to be personally involved in the lives of the people in whom they've invested.  Givers manage their money well and hardly ever spend more than they make or incur debt.  Givers love to motivate others to save and to give generously.

However, with those strengths come some weaknesses givers should avoid.  Sometimes a giver’s efforts to conserve resources can degenerate into being “cheap.”  They might sacrifice quality for quantity or even miss a good opportunity altogether because they are unwilling to spend.  Spiritually gifted givers sometimes come to care more about the money than what the money can do for God’s work.  So, givers need a strong prayer life to know what God is doing and also the faith to give when God calls them to spend on His Kingdom work.  Pride can become another great weakness for givers.  They may become proud of their great resources and their ability to influence with their money.  If offended, givers may resort to withholding their giving as a weapon, letting their feelings interfere with God-given opportunities to give.  Furthermore, givers sometimes get too focused on one issue they see as a priority and ignore other issues that may be important to others or may be even more important to God’s Kingdom work.

Do You Have the Spiritual Gift of Giving?
Do you have the spiritual gift of Giving?  Do you have a knack for saving money—both by putting it away and also by getting a good deal?  Do you enjoy helping others more than spending on yourself?  Are you a hard worker with integrity, able to be held accountable for the way you use the resources God gives you?  Are you using your spiritual gift to have the greatest impact possible for the Kingdom of God?  As we get ready to close, I want you to pray about it.

As we close, I want to share one more story.  When I was a young minister—about 26-years-old and just starting out in the ministry.  I left a good paying job as the director of quality assurance at 1888 Mills to work as a youth director at a small church.  Our first child, Gavin, was just a baby.  Part of my job was to lead worship for our church’s youth group.  I had an old guitar that was barely adequate.  It seemed like it broke a string just about every time I played. Then I’d have to stop the service and take 5 minutes to put anew string on and retune (and you just couldn’t get it tuned right in that type of situation).  One of my volunteers, Eddie, called me and said, “Chris, meet me up at guitar center today.  I want to buy a guitar and I want your advice…”

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Tithe

Introduction
Let’s start off with a few trivia questions:
  • Which of the following topics did Jesus teach about more often?  Was it:  Heaven, Hell, Money, or Prayer?  The answer is Money!
  • How many of Jesus parables talked about money?  Is it:  1, 4, 7, or 11?  The answer is 11!
  • How many verses in the Gospel of Luke refer to money?  Is it 1 out of 7, 1 out of 10, 1 out of 20, or 1 out of 30?  The answer is 1 out of 7! 
Jesus talked about money a lot.  Apparently, Jesus knew money was a very important aspect of our spiritual lives.  Just like your blood pressure is a symptom of your physical health, the way you manage your money is a symptom of your spiritual health.  The subject of this message is what Jesus said about tithing.

Luke 11:42
What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

Explain the Passage
In Luke 11:42, Jesus scolds the Pharisees for ignoring justice and the love of God, but he affirms their practice of tithing.  The obvious point of the passage is the most important thing in life is to love God and live the right way.  The Pharisees were famous for acting all righteous and following all the rules, but they didn’t really love God or people.  Jesus reminds them (and us) that doing all the right things doesn’t matter if you ignore justice and don’t love God.  We should do good because we love God.
At the same time, Jesus affirmed the Biblical standard of giving.  A person should give a tithe, which is the first 10% of their income (see Gen. 28:22; Lev. 27:30, 32).  In fact, if a person truly loves God and wants to do the right thing, he or she will tithe.  Notice what Jesus said, “You should tithe…” 
Now, I want to take a moment to clear up some misunderstandings in the church.  A concerned member of our church asked me a few weeks ago, “Pastor, I don’t think people in the church really understand the word tithe.  I hear them calling their offerings their tithe, but it’s not their tithe unless it is 10% of their income.”  That is correct.
Some people say they tithe (meaning they give money to the church), but they don’t really give 10% of their income.  They are giving an offering not a tithe.  If you are calling your offerings your “tithe,” you are using the wrong word—unless it is 10% if your income.  So let’s look at some examples, because I want everyone to understand this and use the right word.
The way you calculate a tithe is by taking your income and multiplying it times 0.10.  The answer is your tithe (or how much you should give according to the biblical standard).  See the picture below:

Now, let’s look at a few more real life examples.  The median household income in America is a little over $50,000 a year.  In other words, the average household (combing together what the husband, wife, and anyone else that lives in the house make) is about $50,000 per year.  How much would the tithe be?  $50,000 X 0.10 = $5,000.  So in order to tithe, the average household would need to give about $5,000 a year to the church (or about $100 per week).  Most people in the U.S. do not; therefore, they do not tithe.  They give an offering, but not a tithe.  

Let’s do another example:  My son, Gavin, just got a job as a lifeguard.  He’s only 18 so he doesn’t get paid much—only $10/hour.  Suppose he works 20 hours a week.  That means he will only make about $200/week.  How much would Gavin need to give in order to honestly call it a tithe?  $200 X 0.10 = $20/week (or $1,040 per year).

One more example:  Suppose you are retired and living on social security payments.  I looked up the typical social security payment.  I don’t know if this is accurate, but it’s what Google said so we’ll use it as an example.  Your social security income is $733/month.  How much should you give in order to call it a tithe?  $733 X 0.10 = $73.30 (or about $880 per year).

So, let’s be clear and let’s use the right word.  If you do not give 10% of your income in your offerings, you are not giving a tithe.  You are giving an offering.  Call it an offering or call it a tithe (if it’s 10%), but call it what it is.  Don’t call an apple an orange.

People commonly ask the question, “Do you calculate the tithe before or after taxes?”  In other words, should I use my gross income to calculate my tithe (which would be more) or should I calculate the tithe after they take out taxes (which would be less)?  I say—it’s up to you.  If you are not currently tithing, my advice would be to start tithing your income after the government takes out their taxes.  Then, over time, perhaps you can grow to tithing your full income before taxes are taken out.  I can tell you this:  I have never known a faithful Christian to regret the practice of tithing.  It is hard to start, but once the practice is established, people find joy in it, are glad to give, and often wish to give even more.
Today, the sad truth is that 9 out of 10 people that go to church in America do not tithe at all (on either their before or after tax income).  The average Christian in America only gives about 2% of their income.  It is no wonder that the church struggles to do the ministry God calls us to do.  We don’t have the resources we need.  I am thankful for everything my church has, but the truth is, we could double our ministry budget and do so much more if all our church members tithed.
The saddest truth of all is what this lack of tithing tells us about the spiritual health of Christians in America.  Remember, how you handle your money (and how you give to the church) is a symptom of your spiritual health just like your blood pressure or temperature is a symptom of your physical health.  Therefore, we see that 9 out of 10 Christians in this country are spiritually sick.  It is no wonder our communities are slipping morally.  Church goers are more committed to worldly values than Christian values.  Why should we be surprised to find those outside the Church do not exhibit Christian values.  We need a revival of true Christian commitment.  Otherwise our churches, our communities, and even our nation are going to continue to suffer the symptoms of spiritual illness and apathy.

For the Sake of Argument...
Some argue that they don’t have to give money because they give their time instead.  That’s twisting what the Bible says, but I’ll play along to make a point.  If you want to give 10% of your time, you would need to volunteer at the church for 16 hours and 48 minutes every week.  If you’d like to do that, I can put you to work! 
Others argue, "Tithing was in the Old Testament.  Jesus did away with tithing."  Well, no, as we see in Luke 11:42, Jesus affirmed tithing.  And if you want to follow that line of reasoning, then you will find that Jesus actually goes much further than the tithe.  Jesus taught we should go the extra mile--which means giving more than the minimum tithe.  Ultimate, Jesus requires that you give everything--just as he gave everything for you.  That means giving 100%, not just 10%.
            There are other arguments people make to excuse not giving as much as the Bible instructs, because we want to cling to our money.  Oh how we love our money (or we love the lifestyle that requires so much of our money so we can't afford to tithe)!
            All this misses the larger issue.  Jesus doesn’t want what you have.  Jesus wants you!  Jesus doesn’t want just 10% of your income or your time.  Jesus wants your whole heart.  And if you surrender your heart to Him, you will surrender everything else.  You will stop asking questions like, “How much time, money, obedience, do I have to give?”  You will have an attitude that honors justice and the love of God.  You will ask, “How much can I give?  How much can I justify keeping for myself?”  For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also. (Matthew 6:21) 
People who are wholeheartedly committed to Jesus, who are His true disciples—the way He calls every one of us to be—say, “Lord, all I have is yours.  Here, take my house.  Take my car.  Take my family.  Take my career.  Take it all, Lord.  It’s all yours anyway.”  True Christians sing the great hymn of the church, making the words their sincere prayer to God:

Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in endless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.

Take my voice and let me sing
always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
every power as thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.

Conclusion
            People who join as members of Pleasant Grove UMC make a promise to support the church with their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witnesses.  It is not one or the other.  It’s all of the above.  Think how much good the church could do if every Christian started tithing?  Think of the wonderful children and youth programs we would have.  Think of the amazing music and worship we could provide.  Think of how many needy people we could serve and how many lives we could change.  Think of the difference we could make if we all simply stepped up and gave a full tithe.
            However, there is much more at stake than what tithing does for the church.  The fact is, we are spiritually sick.  We need healing in our soul.  Jesus forgives our sin, and he offers healing.  Healing.  Forgiveness comes with a word, but healing comes through treatment.  As when a doctor gives you medicine to take and says, “Stop smoking” and “you must do these exercises three times a week in order to rebuild your strength after a surgery,” healing for your soul comes through the daily practice of obedience to Jesus.  One of the treatments Jesus give us is to be generous.  He says, "You should tithe..."
            Our selfish attitudes (about sin, money, gratitude, giving, etc.) only change through practice.  Giving a tithe is like spiritual push ups.  It builds your faith muscles.  Why don’t you start building yours today?

Reflection

Take some time to:
  1. Calculate the tithe for your weekly, monthly, or annual income
  2. Reflect on how God might want you to begin the practice of tithing,
  3. Consider that Jesus deserves more than just your money.  He deserve your all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Truth About Tithing...

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell…

Luke 11:42 - “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 

Jesus talked about money a lot.  He talked about money more than He did Heaven and Hell combined.  11 out of 39 of Jesus’ parables talk about money.  1 out of every 7 verses in the Gospel of Luke refer to money.  Apparently, Jesus knew money was a very important aspect of our spiritual lives.  The way we manage our money is a symptom of our spiritual health.

In Luke 11:42, Jesus scolds the Pharisees for ignoring justice and the love of God, but he affirms their practice of tithing.  Jesus recognized the Biblical standard of giving.  A person should give a tithe, which is 10% of their income (see Gen. 28:22; Lev. 27:30, 32). 

Today, 9 out of 10 people that go to church do not tithe.  Some people say they tithe (meaning they give money to the church), but they don’t really give 10% of their income.  The median household income in America is a little over $50,000 a year.  So in order to tithe, the average person would need to give about $5,000 a year to the church (or about $100 per week).  Most people do not; therefore, they do not tithe.  They give an offering, but not a tithe.

Some argue that they don’t have to give money because they give their time instead.  That’s twisting what the Bible says, but I’ll play along to make a point.  If you want to give 10% of your time, you would need to volunteer at the church for 16 hours and 48 minutes each week.  If you’d like to do that, I can put you to work! 
            There are other arguments people make to excuse not giving as much as the Bible instructs, but all this misses a bigger point.  Jesus doesn’t want what you have.  Jesus wants you!  Jesus doesn’t want just 10% of your income or your time.  Jesus wants your whole heart.  And if you surrender your heart to Him, you will surrender everything else.  You will stop asking questions like, “How much time, money, obedience, do I have to give?”  You will have an attitude that honors justice and the love of God.  You will ask, “How much can I give?  How much can I honestly justify keeping for myself?”  For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also. (Mt. 6:21)

            People who join as members of Pleasant Grove UMC make a promise to support the church with their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witnesses.  It is not one or the other.  It’s all of the above.  Think how much good the church could do if every Christian started tithing?  Think of the wonderful children and youth programs we would have.  Think of the amazing music and worship services we could provide.  Think of how many needy people we could serve and how many lives we could change.  Think of the difference we could make if we all simply stepped up and gave a full tithe.

Here’s the thing though.  It wouldn’t just help the church.  It would help you.  Our selfish attitudes (about sin, money, gratitude, giving, etc.) only change through practice.  Giving a tithe is like spiritual push ups.  It builds your faith muscles.  Why don’t you start building yours today?  I’m no expert and certainly don’t claim to know everything, but I believe in God’s Word and I trust in His Grace.  And that’s the Truth as far as I can tell… 

God loves you and so do I!