We are nearing the end of our series called “Church on Purpose,” where we are exploring what it means to be an intentional member of a church. Up to this point the expectations of church membership have not been controversial. I believe most who join a church expect to attend worship frequently, be unifying with other church members, serve in the church, and pray regularly. But this next expectation has the potential to make us a little uneasy, maybe even tense. But it doesn’t have to.
Today, we are talking about tithing, giving of our finances. And I get it. Money is not fun to talk about for most. It’s a private matter. Talking about money makes people nervous. But again, it doesn’t have to. To truly understand tithing and why we do it, we first have to understand the purpose of money, whose it really is, and what it means in our lives. The truth is our views of money may not align with God’s.
We often think of money as the “root of all evils” because that’s what we’ve been told. But 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “The love of money is the root of evil.” Not money itself, the love of it. See money is a tool from God, and if that’s the case, then it’s not evil. It’s how we think about it and what we do with it that is unhealthy.
Psalm 107 begins with the whole reason for giving. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!” Why do we give thanks to God? It’s because God is good, faithful and loving.
The one thing most Christians can agree on is the loving nature of God. 1 John 4:8 tells us, “God is love.” The issue is we don’t get to define God’s love any way we choose. We dishonor Him when we redefine His terms of love. And one way we embrace God’s love is through the act of giving, which is one of the main ways we worship Him.
POINT #1 – Every Gift Matters to God
Luke records the story of a giving widow. Jesus was observing people dropping their gifts in the collection box at the temple.
While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. 2 Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.
3 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. 4 For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”
The rich were bringing in their gifts. Then this poor widow gives hers. But it’s only two small coins not worth much at all. She’s not only poor, but being a woman, she had few resources for making money. Her small gift was a big sacrifice, and she gave it willingly. So Jesus uses her example as a teaching moment. He points out how she gave everything she had while others only gave from their surplus.
Now I realize many of you are not wealthy. Some of you may be living in poverty or pretty close to it. Many live paycheck to paycheck. For those who struggle financially, Jesus teaches that there is incredible spiritual power in the small gifts from people who have nothing from which to give.
But for those who are financially secure, you don’t need to fear giving your offering like the rich, young ruler Jesus talked about in Luke 18. In this story, Jesus interacts with a man who is young, rich and a religious leader who wants to know if he has done enough to gain eternal life.
18 Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “Only God is truly good.
Here is some of the push back from the religious leaders. They don’t fully believe that Jesus is the Messiah, just a good teacher. But Jesus points a question back to the man and in essence was asking, “Do you know who I am?” Undoubtedly the man didn’t catch the point of Jesus’ reply – that the man was right in calling Him ‘good’ since Jesus is God.
20 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.’”
21 The man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”
22 When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich.
24 When Jesus saw this, he said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
This rich, young leader sought reassurance, some way of knowing for sure that he had eternal life. He wanted Jesus to measure and grade his qualifications or to give him some task he could do to assure his own immortality. So Jesus gave him as task – the one thing the rich man knew he could not do.
Jesus said, “There’s still one thing you haven’t done. You still have other gods above me.”
The mans wealth made his life comfortable and gave him power and prestige. By telling him to sell everything he owned, Jesus was touching the very basis of his security and identity. Jesus reminds him that eternity is not based upon a sliding scale of good works. Rather, eternity is given to those who surrender all to Jesus. In one of the hardest verses in the Bible, the rich man refuses God’s grace because he could not give up his possessions.
The man did not understand that he would be even more secure if he followed Jesus than he ever could be with all his wealth.
Jesus does not ask believers to sell everything they have, although this may be his will for some. He does ask us however, to get rid of anything that has become more important in life than God. And if your possessions take first place in your life, it would be better for you to get rid of them.
What is your goal with “your” money (because it’s not really yours)? Is it a higher standard of living? Or is it a higher standard of giving? Jesus teaching that both the rich and the poor can live a righteous life as long as we make generosity our goal. Jesus is King over everything. He owns it all. But when Christ came to earth, He was poor. He had no place to lay His head, and during His ministry never once asked for money, so likely He was poor with only one pair of sandals.
See the issue is NOT wealth – whether you’ve got it or not. The issue is whether you are pursuing God or forgetting God when it comes to your finances. Every one of your giving contributions matter to God. Every gift is important to God. But our calling is not to give from a place of surplus. Our calling is to give from a place of sacrifice.
POINT #2 – Sacrificial Giving Changes You
Sacrificial giving is the antidote to one of the 7 deadly sins – greed. There are two types of greed. One is driven by the desire for more stuff. The other is driven by the desire for more security. Some people collect material goods, while others collect large amounts of cash in their bank accounts to make them feel in control and safe. Those who succumb to greed often want more material goods or wealth. And when you want more, you give less.
Greed and materialism blind you. It’s hard to see greed in the mirror. I can see greed in your mirror, but it’s hard for me to see greed in my own mirror. In fact, I’ve never had a conversation with anyone who was having financial problems, who said, “You know what my problem is…greed.” Greed is a blinding sin. With adultery, you know what you’ve done. And no one accidently steals.
You can be poor and greedy, or you can be rich and greedy. Greed has nothing to do with the amount of money. It has everything to do with an assumption about money. Your dollars become things. They become a house, they become things in your house, they become a car. You consume, consume, consume. Or maybe you do the opposite. You don’t spend all of your extra money. You hoard it. Of course, we don’t call it hoarding. We call it saving.
Whether you want more stuff or more security, the rest of 1 Timothy 6:10 says,
10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
You can love money and crave money because you want more stuff or because you want to be more secure. Both forms of greed are dangerous to your spiritual development.
How is sacrificial giving the solution to the problem of greed? When you give sacrificially, it changes you spiritually. In fact, if what you are giving does not cause you to change your lifestyle, then it is not sacrificial. Not all giving is sacrificial, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
When you leave a great tip, the extra $20 is generous, but it doesn’t hurt to give it. When you buy a hungry person a meal, it’s generous, but it doesn’t hurt to give the meal. You may give $5, $10, $50, or more to any number of causes all of which are generous. But generosity becomes sacrificial when it starts to hurt. And sacrificial giving changes your lifestyle.
The church needs people to be generous. It’s how ministry happens and how the lights in the building stay on. But God calls all believers to give to Him as an act of worship. This is the calling of the widow’s two small coins. The best way to unwind greed in your life is to give sacrificially. The best way to prevent greed is to give sacrificially.
Sacrificial giving is how the church unites for the cause of Christ. This level of giving brings you closer to God and is a true investment in eternity. Ultimately, God does not need your money. He created the world. He owns it all. What God desires is all of your heart, all of your soul, and all of your mind. The only way you can give Him all of who you are is through sacrifice.
POINT #3 – We Are Blessed to Give
Much of the debate about giving to the church is focused on what we think we are required to give rather than what we are blessed to give. Rather than being an act of joy as God intended it, giving often becomes an obligation. When Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, he commended them for their giving because it was an example to other churches and other believers. (2 Corinthians 9:2) Paul then summarizes the spiritual basis for giving:
2 Corinthians 9:7-8
7 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. 8 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 to God’s mission and His church is not something to be neglected, but rather it is a gift to join Him in building the Kingdom. Giving is a wonderful opportunity to worship God and honor His great love for us. We give because He loves us, He is love, and we love Him.