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Entries in Giving (3)

Tuesday
Sep292015

When a Penny is more Than a Dollar

Luke 21:1-4.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 27, 2015.

Today’s passage focuses on the religious giving of a poor widow in contrast with the giving of the rich.  It is important to remember that Jesus had warned his disciples of the sin of the religious leaders.  These sins included “devouring the houses of widows.”  So we have a system that receives monetary gifts to God from the rich and the poor.  Some people may despise such a thing outright.  However, Jesus does not point out that the widow shouldn’t give anything.  Rather, he is helping us to see how God judges and views our giving.  It is irrelevant whether the system has been corrupted by wicked men or not.  We do not give to churches, pastors, board of directors, etc…  Instead true giving is given to God and recognized by Him as such.   Anything beyond this becomes sin.

Jesus declares that the 2 coins the widow put in (equivalent to ½ a penny) is more than all the money the rich put in.  So let’s look into this and we will be drawing out some lessons on how to give to God.

We Give To God By Supporting What He Is Doing

When we talk about giving to God, whether money or our time and energy, we clearly mean something different than giving to another person or a company we owe a bill to.  God is immaterial and so giving to Him is not like giving to a person.  He has no personal need of the money or service we may give.  We should also be careful of simply thinking that we give to churches who receive the money on God’s behalf (like a middle man).  Giving to churches is only one area where we can “give to God.”  So what do we really mean by giving to God?

In Luke 12 Jesus associated being rich towards Gods with giving charity to the poor and needy.  Although we can do that through a Church, it is not necessary.  This is also demonstrated in the Old Testament.  Psalm 65:15 says that God is the Father of the fatherless and defender of widows (elsewhere it mentions He defends the poor, needy, and outsiders).  In Deuteronomy 15:11 Israel is commanded to “be open handed to the poor and needy.  The understanding was that when we helped the widow, orphans, poor, needy, and strangers, we were doing it in honor to God.  God receives it as if we did it to Himself.  This is what Jesus was pointing out when he said, “In so far as you did this unto the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

Another area we see giving happening is when the people of Israel were to help cover the costs of the Temple, its upkeep, and care of the priests.  If I were to try and boil this down to a simple answer I would say this: We give to God by supporting what He is doing.  In the Old Testament this meant that you gave to the temple and helped the poor around you.  God accepted this as a giving to Him.  In this we see that He commanded them to give some amounts, but they could also give voluntary amounts because of their devotion.

How should Christians see this today?  Well we have to ask ourselves, what is God doing now?  Scripture clearly tells us that God has taken a remnant from Israel and created a new people called the Church.  Thus we give to God when we put our time, energy, and finances into supporting the work which God has called His Church to accomplish.  We also can give to God through helping the poor and needy.  Our lives should be an overall support of what God is doing in these areas.

Not All Can Give The Same Amounts

In this situation we are talking about monetary giving.  But it is true in every area that we give that not everyone can give the same amounts.  This widow had very little money.  She could only give ½ a penny.  Whereas others came and gave who could give hundreds or thousands of dollars.  It is because of this that many churches, religious institutions, and religious leaders lose their way and become bloodsuckers on those who are under their leadership.  Monetary gifts that are large become a premium when we have lost our way.  Social rewards and leadership positions go to those who give the most when we have lost our way.  Such a corrupt process is what existed in the days of Jesus.  It is human nature to look highly on those who give large amounts of money.  The apostle James warns against such ways of favoritism in James 2.  “You have become judges with evil thoughts,” and “you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”  This is not love your neighbor as yourself.  Rather it is love those who give the most, more.  This should not be in the Church of God.  We are not all able to give great amounts.  This does not make us a lesser Child of God.  In fact Jesus is pointing out in this case that a ½ penny is more than thousands when it is harder to give.

Public Giving Can Become A Show

Although Jesus doesn’t point this out here, I will add this point because it is implied.  This is happening in the Court of Women outside the area where the sacrifices were offered.  Though the giving receptacles were on the side, they were visible nonetheless.  Thus Jesus looks up and observes people giving.  Public giving can become a big show that is more about being admired than it is about serving God.  What name do we put on the new wing of the Church?  Is it the biggest donor?  Why would we praise someone who give a great amount and never praise those who give small amounts?  Why would we praise each other at for giving to God?  It is one thing to encourage people in giving to God it is another to make a spectacle of it.  Public giving can be all about pride in our own ability.  It can be about the desire to impress others and be admired by them.  It can also create an emotional ownership over those things that we donate.  It is very common in churches for a certain person to donate a needed item and yet, then act as if the item belongs to them and they can dictate how it is used.  Such giving must be abhorred.  Compare that kind of giving to this poor widow.  It is most likely a public humiliation for her to approach the giving chest and throw in two little coins, when the next person comes up and pours in many large coins.  The noise alone would tell the difference in their giving.  There is too much showiness in the Church regarding this area of giving.

God’s Judgment Of My Giving Is Most Important

It says that Jesus “also saw” the widow.  God sees all giving that is done towards Him and all giving that isn’t.  He knows our heart and our ability.  Despite how little or how much we give, He has a judgment regarding how valuable our gift is.  As humans we say a person has given more because we see a dollar as more than a penny.  But that is the value system of this world.  God has a different valuation of our giving.  So are you giving for the recognition of religious men and religious institutions or are you giving to the One they are supposed to be serving?

Jesus says that the rich men were giving out of their abundance or excess.  Even if their motives are pure (no such judgment is given), they were giving what was relatively easy.  They would not go hungry that night because they gave.  Yet, this widow gave out of her poverty, or lack.  She was not able to cover all her needs and yet she still gave these two copper coins.  She probably would go hungry that night because she put in that money.  In fact Jesus says she put in all her living.  This causes a problem in our hearts.  Some would say that she is foolish to put in the last of her money to a corrupt system.  They would rebel and refuse to give.  Yet, even though this was true, God was working through even these corrupt leaders to reveal His plan to the world.  You see this woman wasn’t giving to a corrupt system.  She was giving to God.  That means her money is holy.  What do you think happens to leaders who abuse such gifts and use them for corrupt means?  The “system” is not the problem.  The sinful people running it are the problem.  Jesus is not coming back to save a system.  He is coming back to save people.  In fact her giving becomes a prophetic judgment against he system, but it is judged as righteousness to her.

The Wisdom Of Sacrificial Giving

This brings us to a challenge for our day and age.  Why is she giving “all her livelihood?”  This widow exemplifies the heart of a desperate person who has no option left but to either die or cast themselves upon God.  She could have spent her last two coins on one last comfort for her flesh.  But instead, she sacrifices it to God, and in doing so, she casts herself upon God.  This looks foolish to the world.  Surely, you are too poor to give to God!  But it is often the poor who sacrifice and give, whereas the rich give but a pittance of their money and often only when they are seen.

Such wisdom is not always evident in this world and in this Age.  However, in the age to come Jesus will manifest the great wisdom of such people as this poor widow.  How about you, are you giving all of your life to supporting the things of God?  Not just your money, but also your time, energy, and devotion?  Take time to pray today and ask God to give you wisdom about how you can be giving to Him by supporting His work.  Find a good group of Christians who are dedicated to serving God and stand alongside of them.  Don’t look down on those who can only “do” so much.  We are not all created the same.  But our value is in the eyes of our Lord.  It is to Him alone that we give.

PennyDollar Audio

Tuesday
Jul082014

The Lord Our Provider

We have many needs in life.  However, if we are not careful, our life can become a version of seeing how many plates we can keep spinning.  In such cases we are driven to keep an innumerable amount of desires satisfied.  Of course, it is never enough.  If I only had more skill at this then I could be like so and so.  Have you ever stopped to think that this most likely is not God’s plan for us?  Scripture clearly states that God does not want man to worry about how his needs will be supplied.  As long as God is with us, we can trust in Him.

Another problem is that we can focus only on material needs and neglect the even more important spiritual needs.  We need spiritual sustenance and healing as well as physical.  As we look at Luke 9:10-17, we find Jesus ministering to both the physical and spiritual needs of the people.  In this passage the feeding of the 5,000 teaches us that we need not grumble about what we lack because God will always provide.

Jesus Has Compassion For Us

Luke’s account is brief compared to the other gospels.  In both Matthew and Mark we are told that Jesus was “moved with compassion.”  This is a hallmark of Christ.  He is deeply touched with what it means to be human and have need.  Though it may seem strange, the teaching that God took on a human nature makes sense in the light of compassion.  He can identify with our situation and cares for us.

In fact the reason Jesus had gone out into this uninhabited area was in order to be alone with his disciples.  They had been going throughout Israel ministering with Jesus and had just returned to him.  Jesus knew that they needed some time alone with him in order to be the receiving ones.  Humans were not designed to only be givers.  We are to also be receiving from God and from that supply giving to others.  So it is not just the crowds that need Jesus, but also his faithful workers.

Even Jesus himself later sends his disciples across the lake while he prays on the mountain alone.  This sets up a powerful understanding.  We all need to receive from God as individuals in a quiet secret place of our own.  From that place we can be an encouragement to our close friends and family.  This part is a two way street.  I am giving to them, but they are also giving to me.  The third layer is the one of the crowd.  These are people who have no relationship with us at all.  However, Jesus had compassion for them as well.  Notice how we often want to choose one over the other.  Jesus kept them all in balance because he truly did care for each one.  Sometimes we can let the sheer numbers of the crowd and the never ending need drown out our care for them.  The opposite is true as well.  Some people care more for the crowds than they do for those closest to them.  May God help us to love Him, our friends and family, and the unknown people around us.

These people were imposing on Jesus and his disciples.  But he had compassion on them.  Many of them would only follow him if he was doing miracles.  They would never enter his Church after his resurrection.  Some of them would stand in Jerusalem shouting, “Crucify Him!”  Yet, he had compassion.  As he ministered to Judas, knowing that he would betray him, so we must listen to the heart beat of how Jesus operated.  Jesus began teaching the people and healing those who needed healed.

Jesus Wants His Disciples To Have Compassion

As it approaches evening, the disciples come to Jesus with a practical concern.  He needs to tell the people to leave if they are going to find lodging and food for the night.  The area they were in was uninhabited.  But, Jesus turns this problem back on them.  “You give them something to eat.”  Jesus is not a dummy.  He understands that there is not enough food around.  He is testing them.  Another word for testing is “training.”  These disciples need to learn to operate from the same compassion and trust in God that Jesus had.

It starts with choosing to be a giver.  It is easy to always send people on their way and never ask the question, “Does God want me to give to them?”  Being a giver has nothing to do with how much you have to give, but with how much you care for the other person.  Even when we have much to give, we can operate from a “mentality of lack.”  People need Truth and Love even more than they need food and clothing.  We always have something to give.  Like Peter at the temple we can say, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee.”  Quit looking at what you don’t have as an excuse for your lack of compassion.  Rather, give what you can material or spiritual out of compassion.  Our heavenly Father is a great giver.  Look at all that He has provided on earth and throughout the universe.  To become like Him is to become a giver.  So make that choice.  You will find that when you become a giver, your out-of-control consumption is restrained.  Your mentality will not be about how little you have, but how much you can give.

Which points out, we shouldn’t worry about what we have to give.  Whatever it is, it is enough.  It is enough to help the other person.  You are not God and He doesn’t expect you to meet all of their needs.  We spend too much time bemoaning what we don’t have.  In truth we can actually rejoice in the little that we have.  Why?  We can rejoice because God’s supply will be easier to see.  Paul saw this when he said, “when I am weak then I am strong.”  He knew that his weakness would make God’s strength all the more obvious, which would then strengthen his faith and the faith of others.  When we are strong we delude ourselves into thinking it is all us.  When in truth God is even then helping us.

We need to also give in both material and spiritual things.  Different people tend to go one way or the other.  We either give $5.00 to someone and go on our way, or we hand them a Bible tract and go on our way.  I am not saying that either of these is wrong.  The real question is about our motivation.  God, how can I help this person?  Sometimes we need to stop giving people money and help them in other ways.  This takes true care and the wisdom of God.  Jesus was able to do both.  He fed the people food, but also taught them about the Kingdom of God.  Sometimes people do not realize that they have great spiritual need.  They may despise your attempts to minister to them spiritually.  Compassion should not be given because the recipient is so thankful.  It should be given because it is the right thing to do.

This Event Parallels Israel In The Wilderness

When you step back from this story, you realize that is practically a reenactment of Israel and Moses in the wilderness.  First, we have a people who go out to meet with God in the wilderness.  In the Exodus it was Israel leaving Egypt to follow Moses.  Here it is people who are hungry for God leaving the society of Israel behind to follow the Messiah.  In both cases it is a remnant of all the people in the land who follow God.  Today, the Church is the remnant of the tribes, tongues, and nations of the earth that have been called out of the world system in order to meet with God.

The second point is that God provides bread and meat for them.  In the exodus, they began to complain and God miraculously provided manna and quail as well as water.  Jesus of course takes 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and feeds over 5,000 with it.  In fact in this case it is the Messiah who does the miracle.  Whereas Moses only told the people what God would do.  Even today, the material needs of God’s people are met by Him.  He promised that if we would put His Kingdom first, then He would provide our material needs.

The third point is that God provided Truth and Instruction for them.  Moses is known as the lawgiver because God gave his laws to Israel through him.  Here, Jesus instructs the people in the new society they are to become a part of, the kingdom of God.  It is easy to settle for bread and meat and to not care about the spiritual.  God is not content to just meet our material needs.  As Christians we can be guilty of being part of the religious crowd, but not really letting the teaching of Christ change our life.  Here is a question for you.  Do you interpret the Bible in the lens of what you want and feel?  Or, do you interpret your feelings and wants in the lens of Scripture?  Don’t be foolish and twist God’s Truth to fit what you want.  We are the ones who need to repent, not God.

In some of the other gospels we are told that the people continued to follow Jesus in the days after this great miracle, hoping for more bread and fish.  Yet, he rebuked them and said they needed to work as hard for spiritual food as they did for food for their stomach.  Thus commendation is for those who trust the Lord, not those who saw a miracle.  In days of the Exodus, all the people saw great miracles, but they perished in the desert because they did not have faith in God.  Faith turns away from grumbling and towards thanksgiving.  Faith turns away from complaining and towards rejoicing.  Faith turns away from disobedience and towards obedience.  Faith does not focus on our lack, but rejoices in His faithful supply.  The Lord is our provider and He has not failed us yet!

Lord our Provider Audio

Tuesday
Aug132013

Can a Man Rob God?`

Today we will be in Malachi 3:7-12.  Here the Lord begins to deal with Israel in the area of finances.  There sin of disregarding God’s Word wasn’t just in sickly sacrifices, but also in their giving to the Lord.  Even though we are not under the Law of Moses, I think we will see some of ourselves in their heart attitudes.

Blinded By False Religion

In verse 7 God basically calls them to repentance, but notice that the end of that verse shows that they are somewhat clueless as to how they should repent.  Clearly a blindness had settled upon the people to the point that even as God begins to point out their sin, they still don’t see it or recognize what they need to do.

Now false religion doesn’t start out as stories about pagan deities and their exploits.  Rather it begins when we twist or reject parts of God’s Word.  When we treat the parts of God’s Word that we don’t like as if they don’t exist or don’t apply to us, then we have begun to go down the road of false religion.  Why doesn’t a person just admit that they don’t believe or trust God and walk away?  Whatever the individual reason, their religion ends up becoming a half-hearted cultural thing.

They are reminded that this is no new problem.  Their fathers had done the same thing.  Now it is true that some generations turn to God more so than others.  However, let us not think that it was because they weren’t as sinful or that doing good was natural for them.  No.  Each generation may have different technologies and different dress or music, but the hearts of people are generally the same.  Those generations that chose to repent did so over the top of hearts that were sinful and a past that was littered with sinful actions.  All generations have a tendency to be blind to their sins.  So we need to be careful of making previous generations more righteous than they really were.

Sin causes separation.  God cannot bless us on the path of sin and thus a separation occurs.  We must turn back to him in repentance so that he can turn back to us in blessing.  This will make sense later because God will point out how they were under a curse.  So this brings up the question: How do I repent?  Let me answer this for all of us in general.  Then we will go on to look at Israel’s particular sin and needed act of repentance.  Ultimately we repent by letting God’s Word show us where in our lives we have chosen other paths than His.  And then, we choose to change by turning whole heartedly to God’s Way.  This will be in very specific things for each one of us.  One of those areas is our finances.

How Can A Man Rob God?

Now I know that verse 8 actually asks “will a man rob God.”  But I will come back to that in a moment.  First lets settle what “robbing God” is in the first place.  We essentially “rob” God when we don’t give Him what belongs to Him or is His due.  Now Israel had agreed to give God a tenth of their increase and to offer sacrifices of the perfect animals in their flock.  These sacrifices also had a financial impact.  They were supposed to give a clear and specific amount of money and wealth in their life.  However, they had begun to give weak and sickly (i.e. not costly) animals for their sacrifices and were not giving a full 10% of their increase.  They were welching on their agreement with God and not giving what they had agreed to give.

Now such daring action really shows that unbelief had entered their hearts.  Robbing God is a daring thing that speaks of great audacity.  What kind of man would dare rob God?  The only answer is one who doesn’t think there are any real negative consequences.  Ultimately they have ceased to believe God is real.  In fact they believe that they will be better off by not giving anything to God.  Instead of “wasting it” they could keep it and spend it for themselves.

God is holding Israel accountable in this passage to the Law of Moses.  But we should ask ourselves why He commanded them to give a certain amount.  It’s intention was to force their flesh to recognize just how hostile it really was to the desires of God.  We are not under the Law of Moses.  But the same things God was trying to teach them, He is trying to teach us.  We are not under the Law of Moses, but we are not called to be lawless.  Rather the Word says that we are under the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.

This Holy Spirit is trying to teach us what it means to be like our Father in Heaven when it comes to our finances and material possessions.  In 2 Corinthians 9:7-8 Paul challenged the believers to become givers like God. “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.  And, God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”  We will come back to this in a bit, but recognize that He does not want us to give because we are forced or manipulated, nor out of a grudging heart.

The Righteous Demonstrate It In Their Finances

Now in verses 9-12 God finishes calling them to the carpet on this matter.  There is no way around the truth that our finances demonstrate where our hearts really are. Billy Graham once said, “give me 5 minutes with a person’s checkbook and I will tell you where there heart is.”  Now God doesn’t need to look at our checkbook to know where our heart is, but it is the irrefutable proof one way or another.  Have you looked at your spending register lately?  How does God’s things fare on that list versus your own comfort and luxury?

God tells Israel that they were under a curse because of willful disobedience in their finances.  This problem was wide spread throughout the land.  They were purposefully only giving a part of their tithe and probably only giving that just to keep up appearances.  This sin would definitely impact the livelihood of the priests and the poor who were helped by these gifts.

Now God actually challenges them to “test” Him in this matter.  Basically He is saying if you will start giving me all the tithe, I will lift the curse from you and pour blessings out upon you.  Now the blessing isn’t primarily financial, but it would affect their finances.  Here is what God would do.  He would rebuke the devourerer, bless their agriculture, and make His blessing obvious to others.  The devourer is more than just a metaphorical term for the things that caused their finances to go bad.  It really is a deeper reference to the devil and his desire to kill, steal, and destroy God’s good in our life.  Because of unbelief and rebellion this devourer is released in our life and will consume even our very soul if we don’t repent and turn back to God.  Only God can rebuke the devourer in our life and free us from his tyranny.

Now what about Christians who are under the Law of the Spirit?  There is no command for us to give 10% of our income in the gospel.  But to say that means we don’t have to give at all is disingenuous.  Clearly if we give nothing at all and consume everything in our life, God will not just be displeased.  In fact a story much like this is used of a man who had bumper crops and built bigger barns to hold it all.  The Bible says, that night his soul was required of him.  God brought judgment upon the one who held all for himself.  This is wickedness in its basic form-selfishness.

It demonstrates a lack of truly believing God and loving Him.  When we truly love God we will want to be like Him.  Good news, that is what the Holy Spirit is doing in your life.  He is working in you to perfect God’s image.  When we give nothing or stingily or grudgingly we are anything but reflecting God’s image.

Now in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 Paul instructed the Christians on how they should give.  When we combine it with the 2 Corinthians 9:7-8 passage we are given these main points.

The believer will be led by the Spirit to give regularly.  God increases us regularly and models regular giving to us.  Thus when we are cooperating with the Spirit we become regular givers.  Our giving will be planned.  They were instructed to not only think about ways in which they could help, but then to do what it took to actually follow through and make the plan happen.  He tells them to set aside the money at the first part of the week and then later it will be ready for those it was supposed to help.  Sometimes we use the concept of “Spirit-led” giving as a cop out.  The real question is not did the Spirit tell you to help a particular need, but has God blessed you and do you trust Him to take care of you enough to help someone else?  Our giving should also be generous.  Too often those who ask if they have to give 10% are only wanting to give less.  Do you recognize that the testimony of the early Christians was that they actually gave more?  Now I don’t say this to put us under a new law of giving more than 10%.  But it does show where their hearts were and where ours often are.  In fact notice that this is the area that got Ananias and Saphira in trouble.  They were not in trouble because they didn’t give enough, but because they lied about what they gave.  Our giving should also be made as a private and free matter.  There should be no force or spiritual manipulation put upon people by spiritual leaders or other believers.  Lastly, God wants us to enjoy giving.  When you give, it makes money your servant.  When you mostly consume it all, you become a slave to it.  Let me ask, are you a slave to your money?  Are you consuming it all and complaining to God that you don’t have enough?  Or, are you living on less than you bring in and honoring God with the firstfruits of your increase by giving to His work and blessing those who are hurting?  And are you doing it with the joy of the Lord, filled with thanks?  Powerful questions, and may we be tough enough to wrestle with them.

Can Man Rob God Audio