Tuesday, January 17, 2012

God Doesn't Deserve our Leftovers - Tithing

How many of you have ever had something stolen from you?
What was it?
How did it make you feel?
How many of you have ever had someone close steal something from you? A family member or a friend? Now that hurts, doesn’t it? When I was in college, my brother, Landon, was hooked on drugs, and he used to steal money, cds, cologne, all kinds of things from me. Maybe some of you have had similar experiences where someone in your family or someone close to you stole something of yours.
We’re going to read a passage today that talks about how we have stolen from God. We’ve stolen our money from Him by not giving Him a full tithe. I told you I’m going to get on your case, right?  But seriously I’m not going to try to put a guilt trip on you or tell you that you’ve been doing something wrong because I think the thing is, is that a lot of you don’t know you’ve been stealing from God. A lot of you don’t know how much money you’re supposed to give God or how much of an offering you’re supposed to make when the kids pass the plates every week. Pastors don’t like to talk about the offering or money very often because we don’t want to give people the impression that the church is always asking for money. Today is not about the church asking for money. In fact, the church is doing fairly well financially these last few months. Last May, the church board sat down and tried to budget what we’d have come in over the next church year and we thought, “Well, maybe we’ll get about $40,000 in this year.” That was seven months ago and we’ve already received about three-fourths of that. That’s because in addition to your giving, we’ve also had a couple of people outside our congregation give very generously over the last few months. So today is not about the church asking for money and it’s not about trying to make you feel guilty for anything. Today is about me laying out the requirements God has set forward in His Word and giving us a chance to learn how to more fully live out our faith. That’s it. Sound fair enough?
Here’s our first passage this morning:
Malachi 3:6-10 - 6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.”  God is saying that the people have turned away from Him and are not doing what He requires of them. But then He says – “Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
   “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
 8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
   “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
   “In tithes and offerings.” 9  - God is saying that His children are robbing Him, People are robbing their Heavenly Father by not giving Him the tithes and offerings that He requires – “You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse” – You see, some people weren’t bring their whole tithe. The tithe is a tenth. God says that we are supposed to bring Him a tenth of what we make. Now some of the people were doing that. Others weren’t. Maybe they were giving 1 percent or five percent of their income, not the full tenth that God requires – “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” – God says bring the whole tenth, bring ten percent of what you make so that there will be food in my house. He’s talking about the temple there, but the same thing goes for the church. Bring your full ten percent so that there will be enough to go around here, so that there will be food in my house, so that the church can do what it was meant to do. -  “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. – God says that if you bring your tithe, your full tithe, He will bless you even more than He already is because you will have proven faithful with what He’s given you. If you’re faithful with what He gives you to start, He’ll trust you to be faithful with more.
The people back then weren’t giving God their full ten percent. And the same is true for most Christians today. There’s a statistic in the Christian church, and this is true for most individual churches, that 20% of the people give 80% of the funds. 20% of the people give 80% of the money. Again, that’s because most people do not tithe. Most people do not give ten percent of what they make for the week or the month. And God says that that is wrong. You might not have known that and that’s okay, but He has said that the standard for our giving is one-tenth. The problem is that a lot of us don’t want to give God ten percent. We’ve made our budget – or maybe we haven’t – and we’ve said, “You know, this much money goes to this and this much to this and this much I put over here for this other thing. I don’t have ten percent left to give to God.”
Okay. I can understand that. But let me show you this video. It’s one of my favorites so most of you have probably seen it before.
Avoiding God video
The main point of this video is to show how God just wants to hang out with us, to have a relationship with us. But it also brings out a couple of other things that we do to God. Did you notice how the guy gave God a few cents to buy an ice cream cone? Or how he gave God his leftovers in the restaurant?
We’re kind of like that a lot of times.
we think we can’t give God ten percent because we don’t have ten percent of our income left when it comes time to take up the offering. We’ve had bills to pay, we’ve got things to save up for, we simply don’t have another ten percent we can just give away. Before I go on, let me say that I know that there are people who have legitimate needs and really cannot give ten percent of their income right now. I don’t think God wants you to default on your mortgage or your other bills in order to pay your tithe.
But I do want you to think about this: The reason so many times that we don’t have ten percent to give to God is because we’ve made our giving to God an afterthought. We’re perfectly fine giving to the church, but the truth is that we’re not giving ten percent. We’re giving our leftovers. Whatever change we have on us that day, Yeah, sure God can have that. But that’s not what God wants.
God does not want or deserve our leftovers. God deserves our best. God deserves to be first in our minds, not last. Each one of us can give the full ten percent that God requires, or we can get to the point where we can give our full ten percent, if we are intentional about it, if we commit to it, as God expects us to. That will probably mean changing the way we handle our money. It will probably mean changing our spending habits. It might mean we don’t buy as many snacks or we don’t go out to eat as much or we drink more water instead of pop. It might mean that we stop buying beer and cigarettes. Maybe we cancel our cable tv and get a cheaper cell phone plan. It might mean that we don’t get that new dress this week or we wait a little bit longer to get that new car. I’m just throwing things out there. But what I’m saying is that we need to get to the point where we’re giving God ten percent and then building the rest of our budget around that, instead of building our budget or spending whatever we want and then giving God whatever happens to be leftover.
I told you I was going to get on your case today. But the reason I’m getting on you about your money is, again, not because the church needs it, but because I want you to experience the benefit of this spiritual discipline. I want God to bless you. God has said that He will bless us if we will be faithful in our tithes and offerings. That’s what the Bible passage we read says. I want you to grow spiritually mature in this aspect of your lives. I want you to feel the freedom of giving.
God wants us to give. He requires ten percent. That’s the standard. But He also wants us to want to give.
2 Corinthians 9:7 – Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
God wants us to give to Him because we want to give to Him. He wants us to be happy, to be cheerful about giving our money to Him. We should be so thankful to God for what He’s done for us and we should be so excited about what He can do for other people, that we want to give our money to Him. We should be saying, “Please God, take my money. Take it and use it to help and to reach more people, to bring more people to salvation through the work that You accomplish with my offering.”
If you don’t give your ten percent, does that mean you’re not a Christian? No. Does it mean you’re going to Hell? No. But I guarantee you that if you will give your tithe, if you will take steps to put your money toward God’s work instead of the other things you are or could be spending your money on, God will bless you for your obedience to Him. Mindy and I have always tithed, ever since we were engaged. That’s just – our churches taught that – and it’s something that we’ve always felt was important to do – and God has never failed to take care of us. He has always provided for us. He has always given us ways to make our finances work even after giving that ten percent, and He has blessed us.
So I say that to simply say this: If you will trust God with your money, and if you will be obedient Him and give Him what He asks of you, He will be faithful to you. He will bless you. And I think you will feel a lot better about where your money is going because you will know that your money is going toward God’s work. It’s going toward something that matters. Amen?
Let’s pray. I’ve said just about everything I need to today, so I’m just going to give you a few moments to pray silently about anything God may be saying to you this morning.

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