June 30, 2019
Series: The Other Hours
I wrote this:
For many Christian people, their finances can be divided up between the 90 and the 10 percent. The ninety is for living expenses, ten percent is set apart for God. So far, we’ve been talking bout the 90%, we’ve talked about the economy of eternity. The economy of eternity. I’m hoping that becomes a familiar phrase for all of us.
And when Jesus talked about money, he consistently talked about the master giving money to his servants and he went away. And then he came back and he wanted the servants, who he had given resources to, talent or whatever, to give an account for what they had done with what he had given them. And then he commends them for different things,
This economy of eternity — realizing that everything that we do now impacts the next season of life, both in this life and in the life to come. We need to be living with an economy of eternity. We need to figure out what the economy of heaven is all about, and live according to those standards, even above the standards of the economy of this world. We’ve got to keep that economy of eternity in mind.
A.W. Tozer—I want to drop this quote on you because it’s so good:
As base a thing as money often is, yet it can be transmuted into everlasting treasure. It can be converted into food for the hungry, clothing for the poor, it can keep a missionary actively winning lost men to the light of the gospel and thus transmute itself into heavenly values. Any temporal possession [or resource] can be turned into everlasting wealth.
What a wonderful opportunity and mystery. Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality. Again, I’m not, at this point, talking about giving money to the church. (Although, I think it’s a great idea.) I’m talking about in general, that we can do things now with what God has given us that actually change our entire situation in heaven. Don’t ever forget that. Don’t ever get so near-sighted that you’re living for this economy. Please.
We talked about being a shrewd, strategic steward. Jesus shocked us in saying that the shrewd manager gets commended. People who are wise, smart and strategic about how they use their money. They have a plan. They do research. Jesus wants us to do that with the resources he’s given us. He actually punishes those who just kind of sit on it, or don’t have a plan, or don’t do something strategic with it.
Mark shared with us how integrity, generosity and wisdom will hopefully be words that are used to describe your financial life. Integrity. Wisdom. Generosity. It’s beautiful for me to be able to hear Mark teach on that because I could so easily use those words to describe what I’ve seen him do with what the Lord’s given him. It’s been a beautiful thing to watch.
Before we jump into our talk on tithing and that ten percent, I want to go through a few graphs that will hopefully orient us little bit. Some Barna research graphs. They broke down giving among practicing Christians in five different categories. Volunteering is the biggest one. They polled on emotional/relational support, monetary support, gifts, and hospitality. Hospitality was at 7%. Come on now, people. Don’t worry about that. We’re going to have a whole series on radical hospitality coming up by the end of this year. So you’d better get your house clean, because people are coming over!
Next one: Planned vs. Spontaneous Giving. I thought this was interesting. It speaks a bit to shrewdness, strategy. It has the different generations. Gen Z very spontaneous. Millennials spontaneous. Gen X. Then you can see that those elders haven’t been spontaneous in a long time.
Next one: Expressions of Generosity by Generations. Now, when you read the first three, you’re going to start to make fun of the millennial like we have for the last decade. But watch this. Monetary support obviously it makes perfect sense. Volunteering support, watch out (27%). Where are these guys coming from? It’s pretty cool. Emotional/relational support (24%). ‘Cause they’re still at home and they can still talk to you about stuff. Gifts, including food (20%). I love a generation that does food well, you know? And it is true. In hospitality, they’re beating us all, those millennials. So get off their backs for just a second. (And then you can make fun of them.)
Next one: Problems of Personal Debt. There’s no surprise here. There’s a lot of debt problem in America—and particularly those millennials.
Next: I like this. Sacrificial vs. Surplus Giving. Kind of cuts to the heart a little bit. In the Bible it’s very clear that God loves sacrifice. To obey is better than sacrifice, for sure, but there are things that he commends, that are important. When the giving isn’t just off the top, that you don’t really feel or notice, but the giving all of a sudden becomes something that you do feel, and it costs you your comfort, your norm; there’s something beautiful about that, too.
I thought that was a good research that they did. But the way I see it, the Scriptures teach a lot about money and how we should give to God and his work.
There seem to be three main categories of giving that are consistent in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and in the teachings of Jesus—which is basically how we’re trying to shape and form our world view, our live as a whole, as a church, all of those things—get the full counsel of the Scriptures.
The three things that I see that you can’t deny, they’re there over and over and we’ll try to unpack some Scripture for each one: The faithful tithe, generous gifts and sacrificial offering. So, if you’re going to look to see, “Am I doing okay with the ten percent” or “the ninety percent”—it can apply either way. “Am I giving or am I doing what God would want me to do with my money?”
I think you’re going to need to see a faithful tithe of some sort. You’re going to need to see generous gifts. And you’re going to need to see moments where there is real sacrifice in giving.
So I put a little extra detail on each one of these words to give us a little more clarity.
Faithful tithe: motivated by obedient worship, not begrudging duty. There’s a heart posture that’s involved.
Generous gifts that are motivated by genuine compassion, not manipulated concern. You kind of feel the manipulation of the marketing or whatever the need might be, and you’re able to move past that and say, “No, I’m giving to this, not because I feel guilty, but I am actually starting to feel compassion.” There’s a difference.
And then the sacrificial offering is motivated by radical love for God. It’s never for the praise of people. Remember Jesus talked to the Pharisees. “You’re out there trying to get commended for the way you’re giving. But there’s no sacrifice.” And then he pointed out the widow who was giving her mite. He said it was beautiful in his eyes.
Faithful Tithe. Matthew 23:23 the New Testament teaching on tithing. Jesus says,
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter [justice, mercy and faithfulness], without neglecting the former.
There’s this New Testament concept where Jesus and the New Testament writers never talked about tithing. They never say anything about it. But Jesus is saying in his own words is saying, yes, there are more important matters than tithing. It’s not like if you’re tithing you don’t have to worry about caring for people. If you’re tithing you’re off the hook for the other important things. No. Jesus is saying these things are more important, but you shouldn’t neglect tithing.
I really believe tithing and Sabbath are a little bit of a similar type thing where God has just written into the fabric of creation that, if we’ll get rest right one day a week, he says, “I don’t care what it looks like. I don’t care what you have to do, what you need to do. You’re going to fail if you do not do what is required. If you continue to run in a way that is not the way the manufacturer has given the directions for, it’s going to fail. Rest.”
And I feel like tithing is one of those written principles into the creation. And it’s true Tithing predates the law. We’ll get to that in just a second.
Numbers 18:26. I want to read this one just so you know something:
Speak to the Levites, [the priests, the caretakers], and say to them, “When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering.”
Just so you know, all the pastors around here, everybody in church work, if they’re not tithing, they’re not doing what God has asked. If they’re receiving tithes and offerings and they’re not tithing on that, they’re playing a game. So everyone here, all the pastors here, we tithe. Tithing is a big part of what we do.
The church as a whole, ten percent of every dime that comes into this place goes straight into missions. We’re not allowed to touch it at all. And it’s been such a fun thing. It’s one of our greatest joys, at this point, to be able to see that happen. And we give more than that to missions, as well, but ten percent is automatic.
2 Chronicles 31:4. This is talking about a moment of real revival in the people of God, in the community of God, a really precious moment.
He ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and Levites so that they could devote themselves to the law of the Lord. As soon as the order went out, the Israelites gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.
I love this. Revival and tithing, revival and giving in the Scriptures. You see them go hand in hand so often.
Tim Keller, a Bible teacher from New York, actually says that when God is really moving in a community, one of the biproducts that he has always seen is radical philanthropy. Where there’s always a generosity that comes. It’s true in the book of Acts, too.
And he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, Who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Abram became Abraham, one of the fathers of faith. This is important because this is a time where a tenth, a tithe, was given prior to the law being given to the people of God. So, some people say, “Well, we’re not under the aw anymore in Christ. We don’t have to follow the law.”
That’s fine. I get what you’re saying. We have a greater law. We have the Spirit of God living in us. We have to follow that lead. But, as the Scriptures teach, the law of the Old Testament is still a good guideline. When it comes to tithing, it was something that was written into the fabric of humanity prior to the law being given. Again, I feel like it’s similar, along the same line as the Sabbath.
Malachi 3:8 says
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, 'How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty,” and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Now, all I’m saying on this one, it’s an Old Testament promise to an Old Testament people. I do believe that many of those Old Testament promises apply to us in Christ Jesus, 100%. But I’m just saying, what if this is true? You know? I do believe it is. Just in case this might be true—that if we rob God in the 10%ish—that we actually will have curses and extra challenges in our life, and that, if we do give God that he will pour out blessings on us. I say we go for that.
1 Corinthians 16:1-3. This is a New Testament passage.
Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week [Sunday] each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, [a percentage of your income], saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to themes you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.
Paul was going around teaching, in the New Testament, to all the churches, that on the first day of every week they should be setting aside a sum of money that they should give to the Lord and the work that he’s doing. Now, for them, that meant Paul would take it back to that Jerusalem church where they would care for the poor and they would serve the people there, because that was kind of the home base.
So that’s basically where we get the practice. We have these bags that are passed and people do it online now. But we’re maintaining that same practice so that needs can be met in our city and in our world. And we give to a lot of other churches and a lot of missions and we give to a lot of different situations.
By the way, anyone can see our records anytime they want. We don’t keep anything in hiding. If you’re saying, “I want to check you guys out on the money side,” well, I think that’s cool. Come. We’ll talk it through and you’ll get to see everything and have all your questions answered. No problem at all. Open book policy.
The next category: Generous Gift. Acts 4:31. So, again, this is revival taking place. This is the first church, right after Jesus left.
After they prayed, the place where they were meting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own. But they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet. And it was distributed to anyone who had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Generosity is a sign of God moving. It’s been awesome in this church. We’ve got plenty of Barnabases who have stepped up and done amazing things. And we’ve got lots of Barnabases who have stepped up and their faithfulness over the years has equated to big, major things. Both have been beautiful and wonderful. This family has a rich history in this way. You guys’ generosity is legendary. I hear that from people who pass through here all the time. It’s a wonderful mark and I’m thankful for it.
2 Corinthians 9:6.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
Generous gifts should be a big part of the believer’s life. And a couple of generous gifts, just in case you have some extra—we’d love a house that we could use for girls who have aged out of foster care. We gave up the house that we have on our property for boys who have aged out of foster care, but we need one for the girls. So all of you that have those extra houses, just let me know. We won’t even sell it. You can keep it. Whatever. Just let us use it. We also have another house at 37th Avenue and Camelback that we use for teen moms. They live in there and we’re helping them get some stability and get on their feet. It’s been a pretty cool deal.
Sacrificial Offering. Uh-oh. Mark 12:41
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. [Nothing wrong with that.] But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him…
Jesus saw this and it was so moving, and he didn’t want to miss this moment. He called his disciples to him. And he said, “I want to tell you guys something serious.”
This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.
Because it cost her something. It cost her everything. It was only something that could be done because she desperately needed God and radically believed in Him. There was sacrifice. There was pain. She was going to go without something she needed, but she really believed God was worthy.
Another story. Matthew 19:21:
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Remember, this is a rich, young ruler who comes to Jesus and he has actually followed the law all of his life. And Jesus doesn’t say, “Ha! No you haven’t.” Jesus says, “Yeah, I believe you. There’s one thing you lack. You’ve never sacrificed. It’s never cost you anything. And if you really want to follow me, you need to go and sacrifice everything. And then come follow me and you will have the real treasure.” And the man went away sad because he was owned by his possessions. They were his master instead of Jesus.
This is the stuff you shouldn’t come to church for because it is not beyond God, even for a second, to ask you to sacrifice, to truly sacrifice for him or for the person sitting next to you, or for someone you don’t even know—maybe even an enemy. If you follow Jesus long enough, he will ask you to sacrifice and it will be miserable; but in the end, the glory which shall be revealed is not worthy to be compared with whatever you end up going through.
A woman came to Jesus with an alabaster jar, [pretty close to when he was going to the cross]. The jar was full of very expensive perfume. She poured it on his head as he was reclining at the table.
And you guys know the story—the woman with the alabaster jar. Many people believe this was a woman of ill repute in a lot of ways. Maybe she had made all that money in that alabaster jar by selling her body. And here she is interacting with Jesus and he has stirred something so deep in her that she is now coming to him saying, “Jesus, I need you. I want to follow you. I want to be the kind of person that I see in your eyes when you look at me.”
And she falls down and breaks open this very expensive (I forget how many year’s wages it was), but it was a massive thing. And it actually offended all of the disciples. It was so elaborate, so extravagant, so wasteful, that the disciples erupted into this argument about, “This could have been done so much better. Why is Jesus allowing this to happen?”
And yet, Jesus says, “Everywhere the gospel is preached this story is going to be told.” Because of the sacrifice. And all I can say on the sacrificial offering—I’m still trying to unpack it—I just think that, at least once in your life, you’ve got to sell out completely. I just think that’s a mark of a follower of Christ. At some point—and maybe it’s more for others, I don’t know—but where you literally just lose it all to go this way, or to give it all away to know what it feels like to only have Jesus.
It’s a scary thing to say to Americans. It’s not that scary to say to Belizeans. They’re like, “All right. You can have it. I didn’t really like it anyway. Take my car. It doesn’t run. Take my shoes. I mean, whatever.”
I have a lot of Belizean friends, so I can make fun of them. In case you’re like, “(Gasp!) Why is he saying that?” I’m talking about my friends, not the rest of the Belizeans, only my friends.
But in other parts of the world, obviously, they don’t have so much cushion. They really know what it means to have nothing, and they’re not as afraid of it as we are. I think Jesus wants to do that. He wants to set us free from that fear. He wants us to know what it means to only have him; because, when we do, we find that we have more than enough with him. And all of a sudden, all of the stuff we have no longer has a grip on us anymore.
I’m not saying I’m perfect in this. We’ve sold out a couple of times, but I don’t know. It’s hard to totally sell out, because then the Lord starts filling up so fast sometimes. But, it’s something to think about.
Lastly, I want to share a few stories as we wrap things up. We’re going to take communion in the end. These are more general. These have been very, very big moments in my education, as far as the economy of heaven.
There is an old pastor I heard preach one time. He was in his seventies, maybe eighties. He always said that when he was young, he thought he was going to write the big check. And what he meant was, he always thought he was going to do something monumental for Christ. He was going to be a martyr and give his life or somehow he was going to do something that equated to like a big check. And yet, he was saying that, now that he is eighty years old, it had never happened. He had never had a lot of money. He had never been a part of anything big as far as movements. He only had, like, two Instagram followers or something. (He didn’t say that.) But his life just didn’t seem that remarkable. But he said he has grown in his appreciation and he has been so content with the reality that God had asked him to write so many little checks. But now, as he is looking back over this life and
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