Skittles Illustration: I need a volunteer… Give a small bag of Skittles to someone- he opens them. Ask them for some Skittles. He replies, “These are mine!” He walks off with the Skittles eating them… Here’s the problem with that response:
He apparently or conveniently has forgotten that I gave him the Skittles!
He doesn’t realize I can take them from him- I’m his boss!
I can go and get my own Skittles!
We can all forget where our Skittles come from! God owns everything- He can either “de-source” or “resource” your life. God is most hurt when our attitude is: “This is mine!” And that attitude seems to mostly manifest itself when it comes to money! “My money!” Most of us agree, especially as Christ-followers, that we need to be better managers/stewards of our life and our time; but don’t mess with my money!
Because of the challenge that money presents, especially in a down economy and a consumerism culture, coupled with the less than ethical financial performances of too many tele-evangelists and the like, money is not a subject we care to have talked about in church. After all, all the church cares about is money!
But Jesus cared about money! 11 of 39 Parables are about money. 1 out of every 7 verses in Luke talks about money. Depending on what search word used, there are between 800-2350 references to money in the Bible; compared to 162 references to hell and between 119-400 references to heaven. Yes, the Bible has a lot to say about money- everything from “don’t be mean and selfish with your money (Deut. 15:7)” to “honor the Lord by giving him your money (Prov. 3:9)” to “the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10)!”
The issue is not about making money, but about managing it! Consider these verses as guiding principles in terms of financial management that is both biblical and how to live a blessed life:
Prov. 21:5 “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.”
Mt. 6:33 “But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.”
John 10:10 “A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.”
These verses have taught me three huge things; especially as it relates to money: 1) You need, “Good planning”, 2) You need to “put God first”, and 3) You need to be “protected from the thief!”
Most importantly, you need a financial vision based on biblical values and a financial plan to fulfill God’s purposes for your life, family, and our church.
A FINANCIAL VISION BASED ON BIBLICAL VALUES
Value #1: God owns everything!
I talked at length about this in Pt. 1 “My Life Management.” Ps. 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” Deut. 8:18 “Remember, the Lord, your God, gives you the strength to make a living…” Fact is we own nothing!
Martin Luther said, “There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, the mind, and the purse. Of these three, it may well be that we find that the conversion of the purse is the most difficult.”
So, in terms of money, it’s critical to accept that it really belongs to God- all of it. Not merely 10% (speak more on tithing in a moment), but 100% of what I have belongs to God! Like everything else, I’m responsible for managing it; and I confess I’ve not always done a good job if it. But there are some key things that helps us to manage our money better- and this is the first one: It’s not mine; it’s all the Lords!
Value #2: God holds every person accountable!
Again, I talked about this at length in Pt. 1., but let me add every person will stand before God and give an account for his or her life. God has the rights, but we have the responsibility! 1 Cor. 4:2 “Now a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful.”
Faithful to what? To what you’ve been given right now. It’s not about “If I had this or if I had that” or in terms of money, “I’d tithe or give IF…!” The great thing is you’re not accountable for what you don’t have. You’re only accountable for what you do have! I’m learning that being accountable to God in the end is about being accountable to God right now!
Right now, how well are you managing your life, your time, and your money? And to be more effective and efficient at managing the money God allows me to have comes down to understanding what God expects me to do with it!! So, the question is: Am I being faithful to what God requires me to do with my money? That’s what I’m accountable for- and in many ways, managing my money means this…
Value #3: God’s will is that we give wisely and generously!
Someone said, “What I spent is gone. What I kept is lost. What I gave away will be mine forever!” The word “give” is used over 1500 times in the Bible. Following Christ and giving go hand in hand. God wants you to excel at giving!
2 Cor. 8:7 “Just as you excel in everything else… see that you excel in this grace of giving!” You “excel” at giving when it’s more about the motive than the amount! You excel at giving when it’s more about the quality of the giver than the quantity of the gift! You excel at giving when it’s more obedience to God than what you’re offering!
Honestly, the question I have to constantly wrestle with is this: “Do I want to be a giver or a getter?” “Is my life going to be defined as a “contributor” or a “consumer?” This is a fundamental principle of the kingdom of God: to give from a willing and joyful heart; to give generously and wisely.
You and I want to excel at giving because of what Jesus said in Luke 19:25-26 “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But to those who are unfaithful, even what little the have will be taken away.” Consider: You don’t give to get, but when you do give generously, you do get more because God knows you will excel at giving more!
Value #4: God desires equal commitment, not equal contribution!
Mk. 12:42-44 tells of woman who gave two pennies in the offering, yet Jesus says, “I assure you this poor widow has given more than all the others have given… they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she has given everything.” Again, the Skittles- If I give one person 10 skittles and another person 1 skittle and the one with 10 offers me 1 and the one with 1 offers me that 1, who has given more??
This truth, that God requires equal commitment- not equal contribution, is another fundamental principle of the kingdom of God; it underscores the priority of making the most of what you’ve been given by God! There are times when God will call us to give sacrificially: I give out of need, not out of abundance; I’m giving up something, not just giving away something!
Giving should be simple: 1) To express appreciation to God for the past- “God, you’ve blessed me. Here is a portion back to you!” 2) To examine our motives and present priority- “God, I want you to be first in everything, especially my finances. Someone paid the price before me in this church, now I want to do my part!” 3) To exponentially bless the next generation- “God, I want to invest in the future, I want to sow generously, I want to demonstrate faith for a fruitful future!”
Value #5: God holds more responsible those who have been given more!
Luke 12:48 “Much is required from those whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” More Skittles- Give one person a small bag of Skittles and another person a box of Skittles- they begin to give the Skittles away!
It is a fundamental kingdom principle that those whom God has blessed with much (Skittles) must take a greater responsibility in giving! It’s simply what God expects and requires, because it is God who has given you what you have.
We know God is the Master Manager of the Universe and gives you what he knows you are capable of managing and what you have the potential for increasing. He proves all of us with what He gives us; then says this: “If you can be faithful with this, I’ll give you more” because we are proving ourselves to be more faithful?? No, more responsible!! Luke 16:10 “Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won’t be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities!”
That’s the thing, giving is all about responsibility! More- more responsible; less- less responsible, yet all are responsible! Responsible to give the tithe, to give as I have opportunity, to give out of abundance and need, to give willingly, generously, obediently, because giving is what makes God’s economy so robust!
Value #6: God blesses the giver in proportionate measure!
Luke 6:38 “Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, and poured into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Mal. 3:10 “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do, says the Lord Almighty, I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have room enough to take it in!” Try it! Let me prove it to you!”
More Skittles- Use a small and a large container. Pour a small amount in the smaller one and keep pouring Skittles into the larger container until it overflows! God’s proportion of blessing into your life will be determined by how “small” or by how “big” your giving is!
Basically, God is saying what you give me is what I’m going to give you back. This isn’t some guy on TV talking, this is God! God says, “I’m going to use your standard- how you measure! So the question is: “What’s your standard?” You determine the measure- we complain about why others have more, etc. Well, are you stingy or are you generous? Are you consuming or contributing? Are you a throw a ten in the offering box or are you giving God the full 10%?
Value #7: God’s purposes are to be supported by God’s people!
God’s plan, regardless if you examine the OT or the NT is that God’s work, his kingdom purposes, are to be supported by God’s people! Think about it this way: If sharing the Good News and making disciples is the work of the people or God, and the people of God come together to form the local church, and the local church has this responsibility to equip you and me to fulfill God’s purpose, which means the church is the hope of the world, then we must support the work of the local church- this ministry costs money!
But God’s plan is amazing- He calls us all to simply give a tenth, 10 percent! And when we all do that, it enables us to do more than simply keep the lights on; it gives us what we need to advance the cause of Christ strategically, effectively, and productively!
What is a tithe? It simply means a “tenth” or 10%. (OT) Deut. 14:22-23, “Be sure to set aside a tithe…Bring this tithe to the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored (designates for worship)…The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to fear the Lord your God.” (NT) Matt. 23:23 “Give to Caesar and to God what is Gods” “How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites!, for you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you ignore the important things of the law, justice, mercy and faith. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things.”
Think about 10%… 50% off sale vs a 10% off sale- you wouldn’t even waste your time on the 10% off sale! Tithing is the same way! 10% is nothing compared to the 90% God lets you keep! And don’t practice partial obedience (3,4,5%) because partial obedience is still disobedience!
But, I want you to see something else here, so you aren’t tempted to think I’m just trying to get you to give to the church! Why should you tithe beyond the obvious reason to support the work of the ministry?
Mal. 3:8-10 “You people are robbing me, your God. And here you are asking, “How are we robbing you?” You are robbing me of the offerings and of the ten percent that belong to me. That’s why your whole nation is under a curse. I am the Lord, All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse, so there will be food in my house. Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing.”
You are NOT robbing God of the tithe (yes, he expects it)- you are robbing God of the privilege of BLESSING YOU! You, not God are causing the “heavens to be closed over your life!” Not only that, if read on in Mal. 3, you are allowing yourself to be robbed, by how disobedience and oftentimes, self-centeredness, allows the enemy to victimize us (“the devourer devours our stuff”)!
My heart and motivation today is NOT about how to get you to give more to GCC! My desire is that you will be blessed and can be a blessing! I don’t need to know, nor debate, why tithing (giving God the first 10%) is OT or NT or this or that! All I know is when I tithe, it does open the windows of heaven over my life, it does keep me from being robbed myself, and it does result in God’s blessings!!
I had every intention, as I began to write this message, to argue that even though the New Testament is almost silent on tithing; yet, surely we who know Jesus should do no less than the Old Testament saints who did not know him. I was going to give all these reasons why you can always afford to tithe. I still believe that is true.
But that is not the point of God’s Word in the New Testament. The word of God is always more radical than percentage. To commend tithing as the ideal simply does not capture the New Testament view of discipleship…
Luke 3:11 “If you have two coats, give one to someone who doesn’t have any…” That’s 50% not 10%.
Zacchaeus stood and said, “I will give half my property to the poor…” (Luke 19:8). Again 50%.
Jesus said to the rich young man, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell everything you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and be my follower.” (Matt. 19:21). That’s 100%.
“So then, you cannot be my disciple unless you give away everything you own.” (Luke14:33). Again 100%.
“Along the way someone said to Jesus, ‘I’ll go anywhere with you.’ Jesus said, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn’t have a place to call his own.” (Luke 9:57-58).
“All the Lord’s followers met together and they shared everything they had. They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it.” (Acts 2:43-44).
And no one went in need of anything. Everyone who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money…” (Acts 4:34).
“Although they were going through hard times and were very poor, they were glad to give generously. They gave as much as they could afford, and even more, simply because they wanted to.” (2 Cor. 8:2,3).
The best way that I know how to capture the spirit of the New Testament generosity is simply to say: the issue is not: How much must I give? It is: How much dare I keep? In light of the NT alone, the question is not: Will I tithe? The question is: How much of the money that I hold in trust for God as a manager can I take for my private use?
The financial issue in the American church today is really not tithing, but the inculturated consumerism life-style we’re pressured to lead. Again, it’s not an issue of having stuff, but stuff having me! The question is not can I afford to tithe, but can I justify the life-style that consumes 90% of my income? And behind that is the question: Do I love to use God’s money to spread justice and mercy and spiritual hope in the world, or do I prefer to misappropriate God’s money to purchase more and more personal comfort?
Matt. 6:21 “Your heart will always be where your treasure is.” Let’s turn that around today: “Your money will always be where your values are!”
TAKE THE TITHE TEST! For the next month, I covenant with God to test him and trust him with my tithe; I desire a blessed and not a bitter life!