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THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF FINANCE
A mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson. She gave the little girl a 20 cent coin and a $2 coin for church. “Put whichever one you want in the collection plate and keep the other for yourself,” she told the girl. When they were coming out of the church, the mother asked her daughter which one she had given.
“Well,” said the little girl, “I was going to give the 2 dollars, but just before the collection the man up the front said, The Lord loves a cheerful giver” I knew I’d be a lot more cheerful if I gave the 20 cents, so I did.”
A tramper got lost in the Highlands of Scotland and wandered around aimlessly for three days. At last, he saw a man in the distance. “Help” he cried and stumbled towards the man. “What’s the matter?” asked the local Scotsman.
“I’m lost and I’ve been wandering around for three days” replied the tramper.
“Is there a reward out for ye, do ye think?” asked the local. The tramper said, “I don’t think so.” “Well, then you’re still lost.”
A man went to the theatre to watch a ‘who done it’ play by Agatha Christie and was given a seat near the back of the theatre. He called an usher over and said, “I need to sit close to the stage so I can work out who the villain is. If you can find me a seat up at the front I will give you a generous tip. The usher found him a seat in the second row and he handed her 50 cents. She usher looked at the miserable tip and whispered, “The butler did it.”
Denis the Menace was standing with his father at the church door after the service shaking hands with the minister and Denis asked his Dad out loud, ‘Why don’t you ask the pastor what he’s going to do with the 10 cents you put in the plate?”
Our attitude towards finance –
- How we should feel about money
- How we should obtain it
- How we should spend it
- How we should give it
HOW WE SHOULD FEEL ABOUT IT
1 Timothy 6:10 – Don’t love it.
1 Timothy 6:17 – Don’t put your trust in it.
1 Timothy 6:9, Matthew. 6:33 – Don’t aim to be rich. Make God and His Kingdom your first concern and leave the rest to Him.
Psalm 24 – Don’t look on it as yours. It all belongs to God.
HOW WE SHOULD OBTAIN IT
Ephesians 4:28 – By honest means.
- Repay what you’ve borrowed.
Psalm 37:21 “The wicked borrow but don’t pay back.”
- Don’t falsify your accounts. Amos 8:5, Hosea 12:7
- Don’t overcharge or cheat. Proverbs 11:1 “GOD hates cheating in the marketplace; He loves it when business is above board.”
- Don’t underpay your workers. James 5:4
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 – By hard work.
Paul said to the Thessalonian believers that if a person is unwilling to work they shouldn’t eat. It is God’s will for us to work if we are able to and if there is work available.
When I was a Pastor from time to time we had fit, healthy young men coming to the church office asking for money. I would not give it to them on principle. There is work out there and they were able to work, but if they prefer not to then why should we provide for them. It’s different if someone is unable to work or if they can’t get work and that is what the welfare system exists for. But the Bible is very clear that we must work to provide for our needs.
Luke 16:11 – By wise management.
If we view everything as belonging to God then surely as believers we owe it to God to handle what He entrusts to us wisely particularly in a way that will honour Him.
HOW WE SHOULD SPEND IT
- Provide for the needs of our family. 1 Timothy 5:8
- Provide for fellow believers who are in genuine need. 1 John 3:17
- Pay your debts immediately. Romans 13:8
- Save your money. Proverbs 30:24
This speaks of four creatures that are extremely wise and one is the ant because it stores its food in the summer, so it will have enough in the winter. Whereas in Proverbs 21:20 we are told that the fool spends all his money at once.
In our culture, we are constantly bombarded by pressure to spend everything now even if we don’t have the money and the incentive to save is just not there.
HOW WE SHOULD GIVE IT
A lot of churches teach that Christians should tithe or give a 10% of their income to the church and to do this they have to use scriptures from the Old Testament because nowhere in the New Testament are Christians told to give 10% of their income to the church.
This morning I want us to look at what the Bible says about giving before Moses, from Moses to Jesus and from Jesus to now.
Before God gave the law of tithing to Israel through Moses we find that there are two examples in Genesis where people gave 10% to God.
In Genesis 14:20 God helped Abraham defeat the raiding kings in the valley of Siddim and as a token of appreciation Abraham gave to the Lord’s priest, Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils he recaptured from the kings. This was a voluntary act. Abraham had not been commanded to give 10%. He simply chose to do it to express his gratitude to God.
In Genesis 28:20-22 Jacob made a bargain with God. He said to God, “If you will be with me and watch over me and keep me safe until I return to my father, then you will be my God and I will give to you 10% of all you give me.”
Once again, Jacob did this of his own free will, not because he was commanded to.
FROM MOSES TO JESUS
When God set up the nation of Israel, it was a theocratic state. It was governed by God through the Levites, the priests who were entrusted with God’s laws and were there to ensure those laws were carried out.
There was no separation between the church and the government. The church was the government and the government was the church. The laws given to Moses covered every aspect of life for the nation from offering sacrifices at the temple, to keeping the community safe, to conducting business in the market place, even dietary and sanitary laws.
We find that hard to grasp when we live in a culture where the church and the government are two completely separate entities.
In ancient Israel, God set aside one of the tribes to govern the people under His direction. They were the Levites, the priests and God commanded the people of Israel to give 10% of their income to support the Levites. It wasn’t voluntary, it was law.
It was in effect a tax. And just in case you think that they had it easy it wasn’t limited to 10%. Leviticus 27:30 says 10% went to support the Levites, and then in Deuteronomy 12:6-17 an extra 10% was given for special national festivals, and again in Deuteronomy 14:28 an extra 3.3% was given for Israel’s social welfare programme to support the fatherless, widows and poor people. So the people of Israel were taxed at the rate of 23% which I suppose is fairly similar to our situation when you take into account GST and all the other taxes the government levies on us.
Then on top of that, the people of Israel were commanded not to reap all their crops but to leave some for the poor, they were commanded to give for the upkeep of the temple, to leave their fields unploughed one year in 7 which meant they lost a year’s production every 7 years and they were commanded to cancel all debts every 7 years.
In all the tithes or taxes amounted to more than 25%.
This is what they were commanded by law to do to fund the government of the land. The tithe was Israel’s taxation.
Apart from that God invited them to give freewill offerings to Him. God did not command them to give these because God wants His people to give freely and generously out of gratitude.
Free will giving is completely independent of taxation. It is giving to God freely and willingly out of gratitude.
Now in the Old Testament, we have two examples of what happened when the people gave freely and willingly.
When God wanted money and materials for the building of the tabernacle and the temple, the people were invited to give towards the project and they gave so generously that God had to ask them to stop giving because they had more than enough to complete the project.
Tithing was mandatory taxation for the government and with all those mandatory payments it amounted to about 25% of a person’s income. But they also were encouraged to give above that as free will offerings.
FROM JESUS TO TODAY
By the time of Jesus, there were two governing bodies operating in Israel. The Jewish one and the Roman one.
The Jewish government was still run by the priests and the Jews were expected to financially support the establishment with their tithes which they also called taxes, but they also were commanded to pay taxes to the Roman government to pay for the infrastructure, the army and civil servants. Every adult had to pay 1% of their income.
Even Jesus endorsed the payment of taxes to Rome and tithing to the Jewish authorities by the Jews. In fact, Jesus only mentioned tithing once and it was to do with Jews living under the Jewish governmental system. Nowhere else is it mentioned in the New Testament.
The equivalent of the tithe for New Testament believers is not an amount we are required to give to the church. The equivalent of the tithe in the New Testament is the taxes we pay to the government.
So we are commanded to pay our taxes, or tithes to the government, but we are encouraged to give our freewill offerings to the Lord’s work and to those in need.
When it comes to New Testament giving, there is no reference to tithing there, but I want to give you 10 principles for giving that are found in the New Testament.
- Giving is investing with God – Luke 6:38
What you invest with God you receive back with eternal interest.
Matthew 6:19 – don’t store up treasures on earth – it’s a bad investment because you will lose the lot the moment you die. Invest with God because that investment has eternal dividends and your heart will always be where you put your wealth.
If you invested $50,000.00 in some earthly development, you would be keenly interested in what was happening to that money. And when you invest it in the Kingdom of God your prayers would be with that investment, you would be looking expectantly for the fruit of that investment.
- Giving is an act of faith – Philippians 4:18
When we believers hold back from giving we are in effect saying that God cannot supply our needs. But when we give we are saying in effect, “I trust God to meet my needs.”
When Paul thanked the Philippian believers for supplying his materials needs he said: “And my God shall meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” We often quote that verse out of context… As you have given to the work of God’s Kingdom God will supply all your needs.
- Giving is an expression of love – Mark 14:3-9
Remember when Mary poured out that expensive jar of perfume upon Jesus, the disciples said it was a waste of money. But Jesus said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.” She has given generously because she loves me.
When you really love someone giving sacrificially is not even an issue.
If your child needed a kidney, you wouldn’t hesitate to offer one of yours. You wouldn’t even look on it as a sacrifice, but a privilege.
A number of years ago a Christian couple was travelling with a Pastor in Korea when they came across a father and son working in a rice field. The boy was pulling a heavy plough while his father guided it. The visitor said to the Pastor, “They must be very poor.” The Pastor replied “Yes they are. When the church was built, they were so eager to give something to it, but they had no money. So they sold their ox and gave the money to the church. This spring they are pulling the plough themselves.” After a long silence, the woman said, “That was a real sacrifice.” The Pastor responded, “They do not call it a sacrifice. They are just thankful they had an ox to sell.”
- Giving needs to be in proportion to what we have – 1 Corinthians 16:1
When Paul spoke to the Corinthian believers about giving, he said that on the first day of each week, each believer should set aside a sum of money in keeping with their income. He doesn’t say how much, he doesn’t say what percentage, he just says give in proportion to your income. You need to work that out before God.
- Giving is an indication of our trustworthiness – Luke 16:11.
Jesus said that if we cannot be trusted with material wealth, who would trust us with true spiritual wealth? If you don’t handle the material resources God gives you wisely and faithfully, God won’t trust you with spiritual resources.
The money belongs to God and if He allows you to have it, he expects you to use it in ways that honour Him. If God is to entrust you with spiritual responsibilities you need to have proven faithful and responsible in the management the material resources He has given you.
One of my real concerns about many Christians is that they have this idea that being spiritual is totally unrelated to the other areas of their life. But the New Testament is absolutely clear that the spiritual life impacts every area of our life, behaviour, relationships, work, attitudes, character and activities.
How we handle money is an indication of our relationship with God. Think about it.
It’s interesting that Jesus spoke more about money than any other subject.
- Giving should be in response to need – Acts 2:43.
In the early church whenever a genuine need arose the believers gave. We read in Acts 2-5 that they even sold property and gave the money to the church leaders to distribute it among those in need. In Acts 11 when the believers in Jerusalem were affected by the famine, the believers in Asia gave money to alleviate their suffering.
If there is a genuine need and we have the means to meet it then God expects us to give. James 2:15.
- Giving should demonstrate love not law – 2 Corinthians 8:8-9.
When Paul spoke to the Corinthians about giving he said, “I am not commanding you, but I want to give you the opportunity to prove the sincerity of your love.”
Then he gave them the example of Jesus in v9, “You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus Christ was. Though he was very rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.
For a believer giving is not legalism, it is the expression of love for God and others.
When we put a set amount on how much people should give we make it a law and instead of the willing choice of love.
- Giving needs to be a regular commitment – 1 Corinthians 16:2.
Paul said to the believers in Corinth to set aside a sum of money each week for the Lord’s work. In other words, make it a regular commitment.
- Giving needs to be generous – 2 Corinthians 8:2, 9:5-6.
Don’t limit your generosity to 10% and don’t let your limited circumstances become an excuse for not giving.
The greatest examples of giving in the New Testament were people who didn’t have much to give but gave generously and willingly. The widow who gave all she had and the Macedonian believers who gave out of their extreme poverty and even begged for the privilege of giving.
- Giving needs to be a cheerful thing – 2 Corinthians 9:7
The Lord loves a cheerful (in the Greek, hilarious) giver.
- Giving generously results in blessing – Philippians 4:19.
There was a teaching going around a while back called the prosperity Gospel where Christians were being taught that if they want God’s blessing and material wealth they needed to give generously.
It is true that God will bless those who give generously, but we don’t give in order to be blessed and become rich. In fact, Pauls says in 2 Corinthians 9:11 that when we give generously God will enrich us in every way, not so we can hoard it or lavish it all on ourselves so that we can go on giving generously.
The only other words from Jesus earthly life not found in the Gospels are those quoted in Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.
The Macedonians pleaded with Paul to accept their contribution towards the Jerusalem church even though they were very poor. Why? Not because they wanted to become rich but because they wanted to privilege and blessing that comes from giving.
When I first started out as a Pastor I said to the leaders of my church that I didn’t want to receive a salary from the church, I wanted to simply trust God to supply my needs. The Church secretary told me that in doing that I would deny the church folk the privilege, the responsibility and the joy of financially supporting me. I must admit I hadn’t thought of it like that.
Dr Karl Menninger founder of the famous Menninger Clinic says, “Generous people are rarely ever mentally ill. People with a giving spirit are the most positive people I know because giving is the highest level of living.”
One of the things that really help us to be a giving people is to always remind ourselves that our greatest wealth and treasure is in Christ. When we treasure Him more than anything else giving is not an issue.
When we come to the end of this life then we will discover just how rich we really are. If we have made Jesus and His purposes the main focus of our lives we will find we are rich beyond our wildest dreams. If we have made money and materialism the main focus of our lives we will be destitute because they won’t be of any use to us at that moment.
In Psalm 73 the Psalmist had been looking at the prosperity and wealth of the unbelievers around him and feeling envious until he got his perspective right and realised how foolish he had been and he came out with this statement.
Psalm 73:23-26 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire beside you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.