Thursday, July 23, 2015

1 Corinthians 16:1-4


The Christian and his GIVING


Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.




WHAT SUBJECT creates MORE TENSION in a church than any other?  


Of all the things talked about in the Bible, what ONE subject  do people WISH would go away?


Money.  


But Why???  Why are people so sensitive about giving???


When you go to a doctor for a physical, he may poke and press various places, asking, “Does THIS hurt???  How about THAT???”  If you cry out in pain, one of two things has happened.  Either the doctor has pushed unnecessarily hard – OR – there is something wrong and the doctor will suggest running tests, because, “THIS is not supposed to hurt.”  


So it is when pastors preach on money.  People often hear the sermon and cry out in discomfort because something is wrong - the subject of GIVING shouldn’t generate this much discomfort for a Christian.
I am convinced that the reason the subject of giving offends people, 9 times out of 10… it is because they are living in disobedience.

For years, I avoided this subject, for several reasons:  


First, giving, if it is done Biblically, is a matter of the heart.  If people feel compelled to give because the preacher is applying pressure, the giver will only have RESENTMENT.


Secondly, I have avoided the issue because I have always felt that when people grow in Christ, giving will take care of itself.  Listen, if people love the Lord and His Church, they WILL support it financially.  Because according to Matthew 6:21, your treasure follows your heart.


Third, I have avoided it because of all the bad press surrounding a few preachers who have asked people to support them, only to use those gifts to live lavishly - buying expensive homes, cars, and other stuff that most of their contributors can’t afford.  People often associate what goes into the plate WITH the preacher.  And since any message on money is viewed as benefitting myself, I have avoided it.
Fourth, I have been hesitant because there are always those precious folks who are doing their very best they can just to keep food on the table. And when they hear a sermon on how they ought to give more, they get discouraged and feel they don’t measure up.
And fifth, I don’t preach on this much because I know that many of you are already doing even MORE than what God requires, and therefore, there is very little reason for me to have to deal with it.  I am pleased with how we our finances have improved and am continually amazed by what such a small group is able to accomplish.  Your faithfulness in giving is a reflection of your love for Jesus <Period>


HOWEVER...


I am disobeying God if I avoid certain topics out of a concern of offending you.


Jesus talked about money more than any other subject.  In fact, He has more to say about money than he does heaven and hell - - - COMBINED!  In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 1 out of every 6 verses deals with money.  And of the 29 parables Jesus told in his ministry, 16 are on the subject of money.  


WHY???  


Because nothing rivals a man’s love for God quite like his love for GOLD.  
THIS is WHY Paul leaves the subject of the resurrection to to talk about giving.


I think Paul shifts gears to impress upon us the importance of getting the gospel to those who have never heard.  The message of Christ is the only message that saves – therefore, we must use every available resource, including our money, to get the Gospel out.
And secondly, if there is anything in this world that rivals God for first place in our lives - it is money.  So when we give, we are demonstrating in a tangible way what is MOST IMPORTANT to us.
The Church at Corinth had many problems that Paul has gone to great lengths to address.  We don’t know if giving was a problem for them or not… but they were probably like most Christians, and had questions about WHY and HOW they should give.  So notice...


1.  First, the Purpose of our giving in verse 1, when he says, “Now concerning the collection FOR THE SAINTS: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so YOU also are to do.”  


Paul went to great pains to never burden the local church with his own needs… he worked a job to support his own ministry.  But everywhere he went he asked Gentile churches for money to send back to Jerusalem to help meet the needs of people who had lost everything when they accepted Christ.  There were so many destitute and struggling Jewish-believers that the church at Jerusalem was crushed under the weight of extreme poverty.  


Barnabas, a wealthy Christian in the church at Jerusalem was so touched by these needs that he sold properties and brought the proceeds to the church to be used for basic provision.


But a body only has so much property he can sell.  


SO, as Paul went about establishing churches throughout Asia Minor, he impressed each Gentile congregation to financially support those struggling Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.


Not only did these gifts meet real needs, they also fostered a spirit of unity in the church where once there was a cloud of prejudice and suspicion.  The Jewish believers did not initially accept the Gentiles into the fellowship… but those gifts, coupled with the conviction of the Holy Spirit, made them re-think their position.  


It’s amazing how practical you can be when you are starving to death, Amen?
When our hearts are right, we will view money as a tool for serving the Lord.  We will value PEOPLE over POSSESSIONS.  Our ambition should not be to enrich ourselves, but to yield everything we are and have to serving Jesus.  
I would remind you that John addressed this issue in 1 John 3:17 when he asked, “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?”  The parable of the Good Samaritan also makes it clear that we should minister to the needs of people from our own resources.
Now,


there ARE logical limits to giving.  Paul is not requiring us to give away everything and take a vow of poverty.  There is nothing wrong with having things.


BUT- when things have YOU, when your desire for wealth hardens your heart to others in need, THEN you have a problem.  It is the tendency of the sin-nature to GRAB rather than to GIVE.  


So God shows us that there IS a purpose behind our giving. Money, though a very small thing, can accomplish GREAT things when devoted to God and His work.  Through giving, we are able to meet real needs and reach real people, which glorifies God in a REAL way.  THAT is the purpose of Giving.
2.  Secondly, Paul shares the Principles of Giving in verse 2, when he says, “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.”  In that one verse we find WHEN to give, WHO should give, and HOW MUCH we should give…notice first:
When we should give – “on the first day of every week…”  Since the church meets for worship on Sunday, AND, since giving financially is a PART of worship, THEN Sunday is the perfect day for us to give.  


He is not laying down a law that “Every person must give every Sunday.”  No, not everyone is paid weekly.  Not everyone is employed.  He is teaching us that giving should be a priority - something we PLAN for.  It should be a regular part of our worship – not just something we do if we just happen to have a little extra...  No... an ongoing, budgeted practice.
THEN he addresses WHO should give when he says, “each of you.”  No Christian is exempt from giving.  One person shouldn’t be expected to carry the load for us.  We are ALL stewards of whatever the Lord has given us NO MATTER how little or how much.  And most of those who claim that can’t afford to give - CAN’T because it isn’t a priority.
You may recall the day Jesus was watching various people put their offerings in the Temple treasury?  Some put in GREAT amounts.  But the Lord took notice of a poor widow woman who dropped in just two small copper coins.  Those 2 coins were all she had.


Interestingly, He didn’t discourage the woman from giving – neither did He fuss at Temple officials for accepting the money of one so destitute.  To the contrary, Jesus admired her generosity, holding her up as a model, saying, “Truly I say unto you, this poor widow put in more than all the others – for THEY gave out of their abundance, but SHE out of her poverty… all she had to live on.


The Lord applauds the generosity of His people – because – We are most like Him - when we give.  And besides, He has promised to bless those who honor Him with their resources.
THEN Paul addresses HOW MUCH we should give when he says, “as he may prosper.”  Don’t get hung up on percentages - but learn to see that ALL YOU HAVE belongs to God.  


Which put me in mind of a story...


A mother wanted to teach her daughter a practical spiritual lesson… so she gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar before church and said, “Put one of these in the offering plate and keep the other for yourself.  You decide.”


When they left church, the mother asked her daughter which one she put in the offering.  “Well,” said the little girl, “I was about to give the dollar, but just before the offering, the preacher said we should be ‘cheerful givers.’  And I knew I’d be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter!”
Usually when the subject of ‘HOW MUCH’ comes up, the standard answer is 10%.  It has been said many times, that “if every Christian gave 10% of their income to the Lord, churches would never have to ask for more.”  


Well, I don’t know about all that - because it seems to me that many churches are only interesting in building extravagant buildings.  But reflecting back to the widow who gave her two pennies in the offering, Jesus said, “she gave ALL she had.


You see, Good stewards recognize that God owns everything already - that we are but managers of His wealth - and instead of seeking the minimum, we should look for ways to honor the Lord with our generosity.


Paul teaches us to give proportionately.  For some, 10% is a difficult thing to do – their salary is so small, it would take great sacrifice for them to give that much.  OTHERS, their salary is SO LARGE, they wouldn’t even MISS 10%.  So the point is – give God your best.
Are YOU giving Him YOUR best?


I am reminded of David’s attitude toward giving in 2 Samuel 24.  The people of Israel were under severe judgment.  The death Angel was moving through the land, killing thousands of people.  


David approached a man named Aruna, desiring to purchase a place to offer sacrifice to the Lord – that he might plead with the Lord to END this judgment.  Aruna wanted to GIVE the property to the king.  But David said, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.


You see?  When our heart is right, we will WANT TO give – and when we are focused on worship, we won’t be looking for the cheapest way to do it.
3.  And finally, after showing us the purpose and the principles of giving, Paul offers Protection in our giving.  Listen to it in vv. 3 and 4, “And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.”  


According to Paul, the church has a responsibility to handle gifts honestly.  Those who give to the Lord’s work, have a right to expect that their gifts are being used legitimately - wisely.  No secrets.  That’s why Paul told the Corinthians to appoint several men of character to transport the gifts to the church at Jerusalem.  


There are several practical reasons for this:
First, it protected the givers to have men they trusted handling the money.


Second, it protected Paul from any unfair accusation that he was somehow benefitting personally from those gifts.  


And Third, their gifts brought the two churches closer as the Corinthians got to see with their own eyes the great need of their Jewish brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.  By sending men from the church at Corinth with a love gift to the church at Jerusalem, it would bring the family of God together… it would help them take OWNERSHIP of the work.
So what is the larger point?  You should be able to trust those who handle your gifts.  When you give money to the church, you should know how it is being spent … that every dime is accounted for…  and that you have a VOICE in how the church’s funds are used.  


I am glad our treasurer is a man of integrity and I never have to worry about our money.  I’m glad we have budgets and business meetings where detailed reports are made public and we have the opportunity to voice our concerns and vote on how the money is spent.  The Lord doesn’t expect us to give blindly.  You should expect 100% transparency and accountability from your church.  


The Purpose, The Principles, and The Protection of your giving.


Now, I realize I have done my share of poking and prodding over giving today.  Has it made you uncomfortable?  If it has, then we need to run some further tests, because THIS shouldn’t hurt.  God has been soooo good to us – surely He deserves our very best.
Giving isn’t just about obedience… it’s about TRUST.  Do you believe Him when He says, “Try me and see if I will not pour out a blessing upon you…”  Do you believe Him when He says, “But my God shall supply ALL your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus?”  

If you need to make a commitment to the Lord today - making Him LORD of your finances – why don’t you pray about it right now?