Will A Man Rob God?

8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.
9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me.
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put ME to the test!
11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.

INTRODUCTION

I was raised on the King James which states the Jews sin a little differently…“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.”

So the question is: will a man rob God? And the answer is yes, he will: as a matter of fact over 80% of Baptist do it weekly. Jack Taylor was fond of saying, “I would pray with a man who robs God. I wouldn’t close my eyes in his presence: a man who will rob God, will rob anyone.” I think Jack was using the hyperbole but his point is well taken. Something is not right when a man robs God.

I suppose the second question is: how can a man rob God? Malachi gives us the answer, by withholding our tithes and offerings. The Levitical or Temple Ministry was supported by tithes and offerings. Today the ministry of the church, the body of Christ, is supported by tithes and offerings. Why do people feel entitled to a free ride? I don’t get it. Joe Wheeler does not give us electricity and they don’t take faith as payment for their services either. Ministry is expensive and it cannot be done without financial support.

The third question is WHY? Why don’t professing believers tithe?

Today, I am going to suggest four reasons or excuses why many church members do not tithe…

I. GOD HAS NO NEEDS. 

The gold is His, the silver is His, the cattle on a thousand hills are his. The earth is the LORD’s and everything on it. God has infinite wealth. His resources cannot be exhausted. All of this is true. God is not in a financial bind. He does not need a bail out. Many people reason to themselves: God doesn’t need my money.

I had to borrow money from an individual to go to school and when I went to pay him back, he opened his ledger and I saw another name, someone is my family, who owed him money and had made no effort to pay him back. This man was a relative and he did not charge us interest. But this particular person had made no attempt to pay the principal. I confronted him and he didn’t like it but I pressed for an answer: “Why are you not paying this debt?” I will never forget what he said, “He has ten times as much money as I have, he doesn’t need the money.” I think my response was, “That has nothing to do with it.” I guarantee you when he asked for the loan, he did not tell the man, “You are rich and I have no intention of paying you back.” Had he been honest, the man would not have loaned him the money and neither would I.

A debt is a debt is a debt. By the way, poor people don’t loan money. Only rich people loan money. If you owe someone, their financial status has nothing to do with your moral obligation to pay the debt.

NO, God does not need your money but that has nothing to do with your obligation.


II. MISTRUST FOR THE MINISTRY

The second excuse that I know is real has to do with people mistrust of preachers. They assume incorrectly that a preacher who preaches on stewardship [the use of material wealth] is greedy and working toward a raise. Be honest: How many Baptist churches do you know where the preacher sets the budget and determines his own salary.

I’ll go one step further, if you have a preacher and he never preaches on giving, he is probably not giving himself. We need to be thankful that your pastor tells you the truth. My grandmother on the Bailey side was horrible about judging preachers on this issue. She told me more than once, “There is plenty in the bible for you to preach without you begging for money.” First of all, I have never begged and secondly, I can’t allow my grandmother or anyone else to tell me what and what not to preach.

I knew a man some 35 years ago who claimed to be a deacon but believed like my grandmother. He rode a Greyhound to Arkansas to see a doctor and he sat beside a retired Baptist preacher. He was so proud to tell me, a young preacher at the time that this older preacher made a comment that “he had never preached on tithing, too much other there to get on money.” He wanted to know what I thought, I was a young man but I gave him the proper answer: I said, “I think you sat beside a preacher who never tithed.” I know several preachers who never mention tithing. They also borrow money and don’t pay it back. A bad steward is a bad steward, doesn’t matter if he is a preacher.

I am telling you the truth as I understand it about TITHING and it has nothing today with a salary. There will be no financial profit by what I am doing. I have never preached on giving and gotten a raise because of it.

III. I GIVE OTHER THINGS LIKE MY TALENT AND TIME

The next time you get a bill from Joe Wheeler, throw it in the trash and take them your talent. What a crock! I know this excuse is alive and well because I have family members that give this excuse. Your talent is God’s. It is a gift from Him; you have control of it but it’s on loan and so it your time. God wants more than your time and talent: actually, He wants more than your money. He wants you to trust Him for every need and He wants you to obey His word.

IV. TITHING IS OT/LAW: JESUS FREED US FROM ITS MORAL OBLIGATION

Tithing was practiced in the OT but not as a part of the LAW. The Patriarchs Abraham and Jacob tithed over 400 years before the law was given. “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple…” is an imperative command. Those who claim that GRACE has set them free from the law of tithing are full of mush. Jesus taught us in the sermon on the mount that GRACE goes beyond the law. In other words, those who truly believe in GRACE give more than a tithe. Grace or love goes for beyond the expected. Try treating your wife the way you treat God in the matter of giving.

A man who is living with his wife as a moral obligation may give what is expected but a man who is head over hills in love with his wife will give her much more than expected. Do you get my drift?

V. I CAN’T AFFORD TO TITHE

Mrs. Lillie Mae Thompson of Cherokee, Alabama would say, “You can’t afford not to tithe.” She said, “If you are a child of God, you owe it and you better pay it or else he will get it another way.” I heard her say once, “If you don’t give it to the church, the doctor or the auto mechanic will get it.”

I can assure you, tithing is not a financial problem, it is a spiritual problem. Yes there are people who budget and the tithe is not in the budget but that’s because they have bought things they didn’t need. If I had a new boat, a new camper, a new tractor, UTV and took eight vacations a year, I would be able to tithe either. People spend selfishly on themselves, get over extended and then claim they cannot afford to give. Truth is, they are doing too much frivolous spending.

I have told you about the old boy who began making $300 per week and tithing $30. He kept getting promoted until he was making $3000 per week and his tithe was $300. The greed bug bit him and he went to his preacher and said, “Preacher, $300 is a lot of money to be giving to the church, I don’t think I can continue to tithe that amount. I don’t know what to do, would you please pray for me?” “Yes, be glad to said his pastor.” They got on their knees and the preacher began…”Lord, Jim had no problem tithing when he made $300 per week so I pray you will give him his old job back so he makes only $300….” Jim interrupted him, “That’s OK preacher, strike that prayer, I will give the $300.”

Robby Gallaty tells of a man in the church where he served who volunteered to do sheet rock work because he could not afford to tithe. He confessed this to the pastor who seized the day. “Since you have confessed to me that you do not tithe, do you mind if I share one passage of scripture with you?” The man agreed and Pastor Robby shared Malachi 3:10 which is a unique verse.

It is the only verse in the bible where God puts us to the dare. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If  you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

God is saying, “Try Me, put Me to the test…I dare you.” See if I will not open up the windows of heaven and bless you, overwhelm you with blessing. Give you more blessings than you know what to do with!

The Pastor said to the man: “You don’t have a financial problem, you have a faith problem. You don’t believe God will do what He says He will do. You do not believe in your heart that God will flood you with blessing if you tithe do you? The man looked at his pastor and said, “You are right preacher, I have a faith problem.”

By the way, the word ‘rob’ translated ‘cheat’ in the NLT is used on three times in the O.T. and twice in this passage, verses 8,9. The other is Proverbs 22:23 where Solomon said, “Do not rob the poor or God will rob you.” The Hebrew word for rob or cheat is ‘aqob’ and its original meaning was to cover. Thus the word came to mean defraud: cheating others by deception. The word is so close to the OT name Jacob who was a cheater. Jacob deceived his father by covering up the truth. Some would say he out smarted his brother Esau but this is inaccurate, he cheated his brother. Some have even translated this verse, “Will a man jacob God?”

My challenge to you today is not to tithe, my challenge is for you to come clean, be honest, tell the truth. Stop covering the truth with your lame excuses. Call it what it is: ROBBING/CHEATING GOD. [Sounds bad, “cheating God,” because it is bad]

TITHING

  1. Practiced by the Patriarchs [Abraham and Jacob]
  2. Instituted as a means of provision for Levite and Temple ministry.
  3. Endorsed by Jesus
  4. Standard method of providing for the maintainance and ministry of the church.
  5. In the context of scripture, especially Malachi 3:10– it is a moral imperative.

BUT

Don’t tithe unless…

  1. You do it–As an act of obedience

  2. You do it–As a gesture of faith

  3. You do it–As an expression of love

The Money is not the main thing: your heart being right with God is the main thing.

The Law Of The Harvest

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

1 I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem.
2 For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving.
3 But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you.
4 We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them!
5 So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly.
6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.
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.
9 As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.
12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.
14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.
15 Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

INTRODUCTION

I am doing something tonight that I don’t normally do, trying to cover an entire chapter in one message. I feel like I am preaching to the choir on Wednesday night: if this was the Sunday morning crowd, I would feel differently. We have been on this subject of “Stewardship” for two months and I think it is time to move on but I cannot do that in good conscious without sharing with you what little I know about the LAW OF THE HARVEST.


We will use verse 1-5 as our introduction:

1 I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem.
2 For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving.
3 But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you.
4 We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them!
5 So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly.


Paul is holding the Corinthians accountable for promises made. I don’t know how you interpret what Paul said, but to me, it is a subtle form of pressure.

  1. He is putting words in their mouth… I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving. Eager and enthusiastic givers don’t need prodding.
  2. Paul is sending a team to collect the offering…I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you. Now, if I got a letter in the mail next week from an evangelist who said he was sending a team here to collect an offering, I would take that as a form of pressure. Paul also added, “Don’t embarrass me.”
  3. Paul is holding them accountable for a previous promise…So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But he adds, “I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly.” I see a tad of humor in Pauls appeal. How do you pressure someone to give cheerfully?

    There is a way to pressure someone into giving cheerfully. Well, it is actually not a form of pressure so much as understanding. I think a lot of people would get eager and enthusiastic about giving if they understood the LAW OF THE HARVEST. Getting folks to understand this truth is not easy. The moment you begin asking for my stuff, I get defensive. When I get defensive, I don’t listen, don’t hear, don’t absorb, don’t take in, etc. I prefer to give to those who don’t ask.

Tonight we are going to talk about the LAW OF THE HARVEST which is a simple law.

  1. The LAW OF THE HARVEST is the law of proportionate giving. [ Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.] Its the same rule as that of a farmer, you  harvest in proportion to what you sow. If you sow many seeds, you will reap an abundant harvest: if you sow only a few seed, you will reap a small harvest. If a farmer is to expand his operation, he sows more seed, not less. The more generous he is in sowing the greater his harvest.
  2. The LAW OF THE HARVEST is the law of reciprocal giving. This is where a lot of folks misunderstand the law of the harvest. You do not GIVE TO GET…YOU GIVE TO GET TO GIVE AGAIN. Same as in farming: for the farmer to expand his operation, he plants more acreage which means a greater investment in seeds. Before all these hybrids, farmers saved their seed for the following year. Thus the bigger the harvest, the more seed you have to sow the next cycle, or year. In Luke 6:38, Jesus tells us that we cannot out give God…Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. ” There is a problem, a human problem and it is called greed. At no point in this process can we become greedy and save all our seed. The moment we begin hording, the law of the harvest breaks down. We must continually remind ourselves that we are not giving to get but giving to get so we can give again in a greater purportion.
  3. THE LAW OF THE HARVEST is faith-based giving. The farmer [in the old days, before crop insurance] had to sow in faith. There was never a guarantee of rain or of an abundant harvest. Some years the yield was very good, some years good, some years fair and some years bad. The farmer never knew what the yield would be so he planted in seeds in faith. I can guarantee you a return, based on the word of God the return depends upon [1] your motives and [2] God’s methods. We do normally reap in kind: if we give money our return is in money. If we sow kindness, our return is in kindness but there is no guarantee that we will reap in kind. God has many, many ways of blessing us. If our basic motive is the return, in getting or reaping the harvest, we will probably miss the truth and miss a blessing. Paul explains in the latter part of the chapter, the results of our giving: 

    [1] Our gifts meet the NEEDS OF OTHERS {So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.} I have been studying and trying to impliment the principles of good stewardship for over 45 years and one of the things I have wrestled with time and again is “Motive.” I know that motive is important to God, so what do we do when we suspect impure motives. I always look at the need. Will my gift met a need? This is the first question. I give on the basis of need whether my motives are pure or not. True, there will be no reward for me but the persons needs are met and that is a reward within itself.


    [2] Our gifts produce THANKSGIVING in the heart of the recipent. {And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.} …..To be perfectly honest with you: June and I recieve a lot. I don’t say a lot about it because I know that there is a thin line between being thankful and praising and being proud and boasting. Last week on vacation, our meals were paid for by one of our church members or maybe it was two, our hotel was paid for by a family in this church. June writes the thank you notes to them and I write the thank you notes to the LORD. When you give to a Christian brother, this is going to happen: he or she is going to praise God and give HIM thanks. I recieved one love offering while we were in Seminary and then went some 20 years are more before I got the second. Most churches in the old days paid a set fee, called an honorarium and sometimes, it barely met expenses. Then, after my kids were grown, not gone, but grown, a little church in a neighboring county invited me to preach a revival. I don’t like missing Sunday morning but I gave them a full Sunday and preached at night through Wednesday. I expected the usual honorarium which would be around $200 in most churches. I don’t recall ever getting more than $300, so is was generally in the 2-3 hundred range. That last night of the revival, the pastor got up and said, “We are going to do something I had not planned to do, we are going to take up a love offering for Bro. Jack. I was both shocked and impressed but with my experience in the ministry, I did not expect much. After the service, the pastor gave me an envelop and I just stuck it in my pocket. When we got in our vehicle to leave, my wife said, “hand me the envelop, I want to see what’s in it.” She started counting and her face lit up like a Christmas tree. She said, “You are not going to believe this.” I said, “What, you have to tell me now.” She gave me the amount and I thought I was going to have pull off the road. I was elated, filled with praise and thanksgiving and in a celebrative mood. We went on to Cracker Barrel in Cullman and celebrated. Folks, this has happened to me in some shape, form or fashion more times than I can recount. FIRST OUR GIFT MEETS A NEED, THEN IT CREATES AN ERUPTION OF PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING TO GOD. But that is not all…


    [3] Our gifts will produce GLORY TO GOD. {v.13,  As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God.} This truth consoles me in my giving. I think to myself, “Someone is going to be helped and You will get glory so what difference does it make if I get a reward for giving, my motive is unimportant.” In other words, I have made up my mind to give whether I get a reward or not. Believe it or not, there is a 4th reason…


    [4] Our gifts will produce intercession in our behalf {v.13-14…For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.}…. My father in the ministry was Calvin C. Inman and he was a prayer warrior. He had a prayer room, a prayer calendar and a prayer note book. After he retired in the late 80’s, I bumped into him at a meeting. He said, “Jack, I pray for you every Wednesday.” I pulled him aside and said, “I appreciate your prayers. I just weathered a crisis and it just dawned on me that your prayers could very well have made the difference.” Bro. Inman was not perfect but I covets his prayers. I have some wealthy friends. They can buy anything they want and they are super generous to me. They have given me thousands of dollars. I would be embarrassed to tell you how much they have given. I cannot give them anything because they have money to get whatever they want. BUT I CAN PRAY FOR THEM. They have needs just like everyone else. Just last year, a church member family [one that has been very generous with us] came to visit June and I concerning our little crisis and they never mentioned what was going on in their life. I found out just hours later that their crisis was more severe than ours and immediately, my prayer focus changed. Folks, you cannot put a price tag on an INTERCESSOR, they are priceless.

CONCLUSION

Once again, Paul points us to Jesus in verse 15, “Thank God for this gift to wonderful for words.”

  • AV–Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!
  • NKJV/NIV–Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
  • ESV–Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
  • CEV–Thank God for His gift which is too wonderful for words!
  • NIrV–Let us give thanks to God for HIS gift which is so great that no one can tell you how wonderful it really is!

The bottom line: God is a giver, He is a generous benevolent God and no one can outgive HIM. He has infinite pockets and HIS gift is Christ speaks for itself–how are we going to top this wonderful gift that we cannot even describe.

 My advice to you is: Don’t worry so much about your motives, just respond obediently to God’s command and give, someday you will thank me for challenging you.

The Grace of Giving

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 8:1-5

1 Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia.
2 They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.
3 For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will.
4 They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem.
5 They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.

INTRODUCTION

Unfortunately, not all church members understand what I am about to say, but ‘Giving’ financially to the support of your church and Christ kingdom is a ministry. Our word minister is translated from the Greek word for ‘serve.’ It is related to agency or instrumentality and in the Christians sense, it is God working through you to serve or help others {8:1}. You have the distinct privilege of helping countless numbers of people by giving.

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Let me give you an example, one that is very fresh. June’s nephew Jason gave Joe David $2,000 for the Guatemala Trip but Joe David already had all the bases covered so they used the money to feed hungry people. The money Jason gave will feed 30 families for three months. God used Jason through the agency of GRACE MINISTRIES to serve, to help 30 Guatemalan families. Jason got involved in the MINISTRY OF GIVING and through the ministry of Joe David’s team and Teddy’s organization thirty families were helped.

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One more example: You can give a dollar to the Gideon’s in memory of Tom and they will purchase and place a N.T. in the hand of a child, soldier, nurse, etc. You can donate $5 and they will place a bible in a hospital room or motel. The Gideon’s are an international agency, in more than 200 countries. They have distributed over 2 billion bibles in 95 languages. My friend Rodney Lamar Browning was saved by one of those bibles in a motel room in NYC back in 1970. My daughter Hannah was saved when a Gideon speaker came to DBC 34 years ago. Here is the thing: if you give a dollar of five, you must give it by faith. You will never know if someone came to know Christ due to your gift, not in this life, but by placing that small gift into the hands of such an effective agency the odds are in your favor. Isn’t this exciting! Not to some Baptist.

So I want to talk to you tonight about the MINISTRY OF GIVING and we will use the Philippians as an example….Note how they gave…

I. THEY GAVE SACRIFICALLY

[v.2-3] They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosityFor I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more.

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The Macedonian churches {Philippi, Thessalonica and Beroea} were being persecuted and suffering financially from the persecution. The churches were having a hard time financially. I don’t think Paul wanted them to take part because he says himself that they were very poor. I guess someone forgot to tell them their were poor because they not only gave, they gave more than they could afford and far more than Paul expected.

I think you would agree that most people give what they can afford and very few give more. William Barclay says, “It is not always those who are wealthy who are most generous.” Our problem is that we confuse Generosity with the amount. Jesus doesn’t get these confused. In Luke 21 we have an example of what I am talking about….

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.
2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.
3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.
4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Our generosity is determined by what we have left after we give. We are not to give with the motive of getting back. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. For our gift to be a sacrifice, we have to give up something.

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Several weeks ago, I got a call from the precious lady who took care of June and I in Seminary. She will be 90 her birthday. She can’t drive and her grandkids have put her in an assisted living in Metorie Louisana which is a suberb of New Orleans. She had talked her son in to bringing her home for two or three days {Ashville, Ala} and wanted to know if I could come and see her and so June and I went down. Her late husband was a truck driver and made good money but he didn’t save it so all she has is a SS check which isn’t much. When June and I were in Seminary, we thought they were rich because her husband was making $600 a week, a lot of money in 1971. Knowing that she has a hard time and feeling a debt to her for all she did for us, I gave her half of my allowance for gas money. I thought about it before I gave and I felt I should give it without expecting any return so I gave it and I was broke by Thursday of the week. I was at Huntsville Hospital on Friday of that week and all I had was the change in the ask tray of the car. Fifty dollars would be no sacrifice to most folks but it was to me because it meant I had to give up some things in order to give it. I have a friend, a good friend who give $500 per week to his church building fund. This is not his tithe, it is an offering on top of what he already gives. This means he gives $26,000 per year to the building fund, which is a lot more than I give entirely. I’ve been told that he is worth 8-10 million dollars.

II. THEY GAVE FREELY

[v.3] For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will.

They exercised their free will

The Philippians were poor people because they were being persecuted. Not only did the Jews hate and mistreat Christians, the Roman world was not fond of them either. It had cost the Philippians to follow Christ but they were not complaining. As a matter of fact, Paul was shocked at their generous gift. 

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How did the Philippians come to be so generous? {ANSWER} They choose to of their own free will. Why was Tom Bennich generous? At some point in his life, he made a decision, “I want to be remembered as a generous man.” No one forced Tom to be generous and no one is going to force you. I told Edith last week that Tom had a disciple that he didn’t know anything about. Tom’s generosity so impressed a certain young man that he said, “I want to be like Tom.” Actually two men made a huge impression on this young man, Tom’s impression was on the positive side but the other man was a miser. The young man looked at the contrast and he said, “I want to be like Tom.”

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If you are saying “Its too late,” you could be right or you could be wrong, that too is up to you. Ebeneezer Scrooge was an old man before he learned to give and so was John D. Rockefeller. The doctor told Rockefeller to prepare for his death because he could not digest food. Once Rockefeller realized that the doctor was serious and that he was going to die, he made a change and began giving money away. Without him being aware of what was going on or what made the difference, he began to digest his food and get better physically. Greed was literally killing him and he lived for many more years.

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So who makes the call, who determines whether or not you are going to get into the MINISTRY OF GIVING?  [ANSWER: You do! By exercising your free will] Look at 2 Corinthians 2:9, 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 cheerful giver.”

III. THEY GAVE THANKFULLY

{v.4} They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. 

They understood the privilege of Giving

I gave $500 to the Mission Offering last Sunday and I enjoyed every minute of it. The check I put into the plate came from Edith Bennich. It was as easy as falling off a log. I was never tempted to keep the money. I was simply giving for someone else. Edith used me as an instrument, an agent to give in her behalf. I was having so much fun in the process that I had a thought: giving someone else’s money is easier than giving your own. Then I had another thought: every dime I have given belonged to someone else.

………………..

The only reason I can give, the only reason you can give is because God has given to us first. He is allowing you the privilege of being His agent in the ministry of giving but it is HIS MONEY that you and I are giving. God could very easily take away your privilege to give by taking away your ability to give. The Philippians did not want to miss the privilege of giving to the Christians in Jerusalem. They wanted a part in this ministry. Evidently, Paul didn’t ask them to participate because their condition was as bad or worse than that in Jerusalem. They wouldn’t take no for an answer.

IV.  THEY GAVE SPIRITUALLY 

{v.5} They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.

How do we give spiritually?

  1. Pray about what you are to give. Let God direct you in your giving. You will give what you can afford but sometimes God will challenge you to give more than you can afford.
  2. Commit your life to him before you give money. God does not want your money or necessarily need it, He wants YOU. Money is easier to give than “self.” Those who pretend to be committed yet do not give are only fooling themselves. Giving is a test of your love, to see if it is genuine. You cannot stop love from giving. You can give without loving but you can’t love without giving.

Extravagant Love

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 26:6-13, NLT

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head.

The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? 11 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. 12 She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. 13 I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”

INTRODUCTION

This story is told in two gospels: Matthew and Mark. John alludes to the story and tells us it was Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Mark’s account adds some detail. Luke tells a similar story but it happens at Simon the Pharisee’s home and this is Simon the Leper. Obviously, he is no longer a leper but perhaps he still bears the scars or people identify him as the man who once had leprosy. We are not told but I think there is reason to believe Jesus had healed him and this banquet is in honor of Jesus his Savior. We know there were at least 17 people there but probably several more. Martha was being Martha and was helping with the serving. The story Luke tells is of a woman who has a reputation on the street and this does not seem to fit Mary although she did love deeply like the woman in Luke. This is a fantastic story about worship and love which you really cannot separate. I think the degree of your worship will be determined by the degree of your love and vice versa. Mary excelled at worship. You might say, “It was her strength.”

FIRST OF ALL: MARY HAD THE ABILITY TO FOCUS ON ONE THING

Remember the story in Luke 10 of Martha preparing lunch for Jesus and Mary sitting at His feet listening to every word. Martha came to Jesus an complained about her lazy sister…do you remember what Jesus said to Martha?  “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Mary had this ability to tune everything out other than Jesus. I honestly believe that our worship is corrupted by vain thoughts. We come in here thinking about everything in the world except the right thing which of course is Jesus. We have had some tough Sunday School lessons lately and the one today was very hard on me. I struggle not to be distracted. I have the Martha tendencies. Luke says that Martha was distracted with all the preparations [Luke 10:40]. I sit on the front row so I will not be distracted. I close my eyes at times to keep from being distracted. There is no one in the building trying to distract me. My problem does not lie with others, my problem is within. I do not maintain my focus. Mary was a laser; Martha was a shotgun. A shotgun can make a lot of noise but a laser is much more powerful. When we come in here {Sanctuary}, we have to tune the world out. We have to tune everything out except Jesus.

I love the last verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn LOVE DIVINE ALL LOVES EXCELLING….

Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise

Mary was lost in wonder, love and praise. What is it like to be lost in wonder? I think it is to be absorbed into the infinite greatness of Christ to the point that you don’t exist. Our self is consumed by his glory. Isaiah got lost in wonder and he cried “Woe am I, for I am a man of unclean lips.” Peter got lost in wonder and he cried, “Go away from me LORD, for I am a sinful man.”

A SECOND FACTOR IS THAT MARY WAS UNINHIBITED

As far as Mary was concerned, there was only one man in the room and that was Jesus. She did not enter the room thinking about Simon or Judas. She was focused on Jesus to the point that no one else was in the room. Mary was just being Mary, she was not distracted by all the others in the room. She really didn’t care what they thought about her gift or her manner of presenting it. She was so focused on Jesus that He is all she seen. This is why Mary can teach us tons on worship. She did not allow the distractions or the others in the room to hinder her worship.

Mary lived in a man’s world and the room was filled with men. It is very possible that those seated around the table were all men. We know Martha was there but she was serving which is what women are supposed to do in that culture. Mary in uninterested in the meal or serving the meal: she goes directly to Jesus and anoints his head with the costly perfume.

Is there anyone else in this room who thought like Mary? Is there anyone in this room that would embarrass themselves for the sake of Christ? Was there anyone else in the room who didn’t give a rat’s rear end what the others thought?

None of the men with the exception of Jesus appreciate what she did. They looked down on her with contempt and were openly critical. Mary did not use her brain, she wasted a year’s wage by pouring this expensive perfume on Jesus head. The men in the room were indignant. Why such waste? This perfume cost a small fortune. Today it would be worth 50-60 thousand dollars. The rational men in the room jumped on Mary, what she did was so dumb to them. But she did not do it for them.

Jesus rebuked them for criticizing Mary. “Leave her alone. She has done a good thing. She has done what she could.” Mary could not take Jesus place on the cross but she could anoint his body for burial. She was making every attempt to lighten Jesus load.

How inhibited are we in worship? I would say ‘extremely!’ We are self-conscious and crowd-conscious. We are more worried about pleasing or displeasing the person sitting beside us than we are Jesus. Mary gave her best; she refused to hold back. Do you give Christ your best when we sing? I know the answer. Very few people in this building give Him your best and the number one reason why you don’t is your lack of courage. You are afraid of what others will think of you. Who give a rip. Did they die for you? Would they die for you? He died for you!

A THIRD TIP THAT MARY COULD GIVE US IS BE EXTRAVANGANT IN WORSHIP

This bottle of perfume was costly, very expensive, much more than Mary could afford. The men were thinking…”This woman is crazy. Jesus is going to be dead by the end of the week, why the entire bottle. Why didn’t she use a few drops and save the rest.” You are thinking like rational men, she was thinking like a person in love. Love never gets out the calculator. Love does not think, “How little can I give and this gift still be respectable.” Love is self-sacrificing. Mary would have given 10 bottles of perfume had she had them. She wanted Jesus to have the most precious thing in her possession. She is probably wishing she had more while they are thinking, you did too much.

ONE FINAL TIP FROM MARY: SHE WAS A SPONGE–A CONTEMPLATIVE LISTENER

Mary was a listener. The first time we meet her she is sitting at the feet of Jesus soaking up every word. Mary was the only one of Jesus followers who seemed to sense that the end was near and I am not surprised because men are not good listener, she picked up on things they had missed. She could tell by what Jesus said and how He said it, the cross was immanent. She sensed His burden: the men didn’t have a clue. Jesus has less than a week to live. She acted before it was too late. She seized her opportunity. These men are going to have some regrets but Mary did all she could when she could. They accused her of wasting the perfume but nothing done for Jesus is a waste. Dr. Vance Havner use to say, “We have but one life and it will soon past and only what we do for Jesus will last.” Mary was a good worshipper because she was a good listener and very sensitive to what Jesus said.

CONCLUSION

Jesus lived a lonely life. No one understood Him. His disciples did not want Him to return to Jerusalem. They knew the Jewish leaders were hostile and were capable of anything but Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem and He would not relent. On the trip in, Jesus walked several feet in front of his entourage. He had talked of His death openly but no one wanted to hear it so they just tuned the part about the suffering and death out. Mary was one of the very few who had listened. She was sensitive to Jesus burden. She may not have done much on the grand scheme of things but she did what she could and Jesus appreciated her devotion, her love and her gift. Who can say what her act of kindness meant to Jesus? I don’t know and have no way of finding out but I can tell you how it would work in my life. If I had a rough ordeal in my path, an act of devotion, love and kindness like that of Mary would be a treasured memory. I would use that memory to help me get through the tough times. We know that Jesus thought of others while He was on the cross but He may have thought of Mary’s loving kindness. REMEMBER: Mary had a small window [6 days]. She anointed Jesus for his burial before He was crucified. It was a timely act. A once in a life time opportunity and Mary did not let it slip by. Who do you have the opportunity to help? Is there someone in your life that needs their roses before their funeral. You can wait until the funeral to send the roses but it would mean more to them if you did it now.

What Is In It For Me?

Text: Matthew 19:27-30, NLT

Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”

INTRODUCTION

We live in a “Me Culture”. If we would take the time to look into our hearts, we would see that our ultimate concerns are about our self. We are preoccupied with our comfort, entertainment and bank accounts. None of these things are worthy of our devotion and yet we exalt these temporal things to the level of deity. These things become our god. John warned us {I John 2:15-17, The VOICE}…Don’t fall in love with this corrupt world or worship the things it can offer. Those who love its corrupt ways don’t have the Father’s love living within them. All the things the world can offer to you—the allure of pleasure, the passion to have things, and the pompous sense of superiority—do not come from the Father. These are the rotten fruits of this world. This corrupt world is already wasting away, as are its selfish desires. But the person really doing God’s willthat person will never cease to be. Wow, this needs no commentary. Don’t fall in love with this Christ hating culture. The only thing they can offer is [1] seduction to sin [2] a passion for greed [3] and a spirit of pride.

When Peter witnessed Jesus in conversation with the Rich Young Ruler, his first question after the young man walked away stunned and in grief was: We have left everything to follow you, what’s in it for us.” That guy just refused to leave his possession behind but You promised him a treasure if he gave them up, well that is what we did, we gave them up. Now what should we expect?

Three things I want to say about this selfish question…

[1] I am not amazed at the question but I am amazed at Jesus response. It is a self-centered question that reveals a selfish motive.  I am shocked and stunned that Jesus did not chew Peter out for being so self-centered. I suppose Jesus understood that Peter was simply articulating what all of them were thinking. We have given up everything, what are we going to get in return? Do you ever think such thoughts? What is in this for me? I concluded years ago that either I am a lot like Peter or else he is a lot like me. I talk too much and listen too little. I always have an answer even if it is wrong. Remember the proverb, “Remain silent and folks may think you are a fool but if you speak up, you remove all doubt.” Hey, I remove the doubt. In this story we have impetus Peter at his best, talking before thinking. Surely had he given thought and meditation to what he was thinking, he would not have asked Jesus such a selfish question. I bet the other disciples cringed thinking…Peter is fixing to get it again. The last time this happened, Jesus told him he was full of Satan. But Jesus does not rebuke Peter. Maybe this is a question that we humans cannot help but ask: perhaps it is our nature. Whatever, Jesus does not go off on Peter.

About three years ago our staff was traveling together, two men and two women, and we stopped to eat. Of course it was my favorite restaurant and I knew what I wanted. The waiter got our drinks {tea and coke} and came back to take our order. “Are you ready to place your order or do you need more time?” I blurted out, “I know what I want,” and my son who is my associate gave me a funny look. I said, “What?” By this time both the ladies in our party are laughing. So I repeat, “What is so funny, what did I do?” My son said tactfully, “Its customary to let ladies order first.” Then I said, “But I am paying for the meal.” He said, “It doesn’t matter who is paying, to be polite, you let the ladies order first.” I didn’t like what he said but I knew he was right and I felt a bit of shame, very little,  I suppose, because it did not effect my appetite. So, I decided that day to make a change. LORD, with your help, I am going to give preference to others and go last. Long story short, it has been a struggle.

So Peter ask a self-centered question that reveals a self-centered nature. It is not like we are shocked but the gentle way that Jesus deals with Peter is amazing.

[2] I am equally amazed that Christ would share His kingdom. Jesus said, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. As a matter of fact we find an amazing verse in Luke 12:32…“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” Can you believe this? God has already made a decision to give us the kingdom. Luke 22:28-29…You have stayed with me in my time of trial. And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right 30 to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Tonight we are going to get into Chapter 20 and the story that Jesus tells to illustrate the Father’s nature in giving. The parable is an illustration of God’s infinite and gracious generosity. God is generous to the infinite degree. Let’s say that together…God is generous. God gives and gives and gives again. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 8:9…You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul teaches us about giving… Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.  You cannot out give the LORD of the Harvest. You have no chance of being more generous than God. The more you give, the more He gives and He has deeper pockets.

I like 2 Corinthians 9 in the VOICE…The same One who has put seed into the hands of the sower and brought bread to fill our stomachs will provide and multiply the resources you invest and produce an abundant harvest from your righteous actions. You will be made rich in everything so that your generosity will spill over in every direction. Through us your generosity is at work inspiring praise and thanksgiving to God.

I want you to think about the resources that God has blessed you with.

There are over 7 billion people on earth: 68% have a net worth that is less than $10,000…23% have a net worth of less than $100,000 which due to debt would include some of us…7.5% are under the 1 Million dollar mark and .5% are over 1 Million. I’m not sure how accurate these stats are: we have several multi-millionaires in Morgan County.

Anyway you cut it, we are rich. The Democratic Republic of the Congo {Zaire} has an average annual income of less than $300 per year for a family. You are rich and so am I. Why did God allow us to have such wealth? For the same reason He gives us the ability to work, it is so we can give. In Ephesians 4:28, Paul said, If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. God has blessed us with wealth so we can give generously. We are never more like Christ than when we give generously. {Block Party}

[3] The third thing that amazes me is the rate of return that Jesus promised-100 fold. No one pays those kind of dividends. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. Jesus said, “I will multiply your investment into my ministry 100 fold and then I will throw in ETERNAL LIFE as a bonus. Folks, you cannot beat an offer like that. If you have $10,000 in your 401-K and you got blessed 100 fold, you would have a million dollars. If you have $100,000–you would have 10 million dollars. Before you misunderstand, I need to clarify something, Jesus seldom pays in cash but He is good for His word and you will reap 100 fold.

I left home when I was 22 years old. I moved from Athens, Alabama to New Orleans, La. where I enrolled in Seminary. I’ve been gone 43 years. My Father retired the year after I left and he lived 20 more years after retiring. I missed his retirement years but fortunately I was only 45 miles away. All my siblings see each other every Sunday, I see them about 4 times a year. When I surrendered to the ministry, I thought I was making a sacrifice but looking back, it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice at all. I can say that Jesus has blessed me 100-fold. I’ve had a mother on every church field and a good one. I have had father figures on every field and some very good ones. I have countless brothers and sisters. I pastored a church in rural Mississippi for 18 months way back in 1973-4 and just last month, three of my dear sisters came for a visit. I talked to another friend in that same church today. Just last Friday, the church I pastored right out of Seminary called and ask me to meet them at the Amish Restaurant which is near Danville. I went up and spent more than an hour with these friends.

We are going to talk about God’s generous nature tonight but let me say in closing: you, nor one billion like you are going to out give God. Your pockets are not deep enough to out give Jesus Christ. Listen, everything in this creation belongs to HIM. If He wants something, He can take it or create it out of nothing. You and I are not trying to bail God out when we give to His kingdom. What He really wants from us is our heart. He wants a clean and pure motive. He does not want us to give to get but to give to get to give again so we can be like Him.