Monday, November 10, 2014

Bethany Bullet - November 10, 2014

There once was a man in the church who made a promise with the pastor to tithe ten percent of his income every year. He was young and didn’t have much money at the time. But things changed. The man tithed one thousand dollars the year he earned ten thousand, ten thousand dollars the year he earned one-hundred thousand, and one- hundred thousand dollars the year he earned one million. But the year he earned six million dollars he just could not bring himself to write out that check for six-hundred thousand dollars to the Church. 

He called the pastor and asked to meet with him.  Walking into the office the man begged to be let out of his promise, saying, "This tithing business has to stop. It was fine when my tithe was one thousand dollars, but I just cannot afford six-hundred thousand dollars. You’ve got to do something, Pastor!" The pastor knelt on the floor and prayed silently for a long time. Eventually the man said, "What are you doing? Are you praying that God will let me out of the promise to tithe?"

"No," said the pastor. "I am praying for God to reduce your income back to the level where one thousand dollars was fine for you to give!"

For the past four weeks we have been walking through the Bethany Blueprint.  We have talked about Forming Spiritually, Sharing Intentionally, Worshiping Faithfully, and Serving Passionately.  Today we talk about Giving Proportionately. 

We have spent our time in the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians and have seen all the aspects of the Blueprint contained in this one chapter, today is no different and we will be focusing on verses 14-19.
Paul writes, “…it was kind of you to share my troubles.15 You Philippians also know that in the early days, when I left the province of Macedonia to spread the Good News, you were the only church to share your money with me. You gave me what I needed, and you received what I gave you. 16 Even while I was in Thessalonica, you provided for my needs twice.” (Philippians 4:15-16)

Paul spent time with the church in Philippi at least twice and most likely spent some significant time with the believers gathered there.  We have seen his kind words to them earlier in chapter four and his encouragement to them as they live the life of a Christian. 

Paul has since been imprisoned and has many troubles in his own life.  He reminds the church of the gifts sent to him during this time.  Through it all, Paul is content.  He continues, 17 It’s not that I’m looking for a gift. The opposite is true. I’m looking for your resources to increase. 18 You have paid me in full, and I have more than enough. Now that Epaphroditus has brought me your gifts, you have filled my needs. Your gifts are a soothing aroma, a sacrifice that God accepts and with which he is pleased. 19 My God will richly fill your every need in a glorious way through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:17-19)
Giving to God is pleasing to Him.  Paul hearkens back to the sacrifices of the Old Testament.  During that time offerings were brought to the temple.  Grain offerings, drink offerings, sacrifices of animals; they were burnt outside the temple and the smoke rose to heaven, a soothing aroma of sacrifice wafted upward and God was appeased and pleased. 

Paul now says that the financial gift of the Philippians does the same thing. 

When we give sacrificially we are giving proportionately and that is pleasing to God.  What does that mean?

Three men talking about how much of their earnings to put pack into the offering plate at church.

The first one says, “I draw a circle on the ground and throw my money up into the air. Whatever falls in the circle is for me, whatever lands outside goes to God.”

The second says, “I use a similar method. I draw the circle and throw my money. What lands inside is for God, what lands outside is for me.”

The third one says, “I do about the same thing. I draw the circle, throw my money, and let God grab however much of it he wants.”

At the local Church the Pastor found out that the organist for Sunday was ill.  He was very nervous because this was Stewardship Sunday and he had some special hymns selected. A young girl arrived as the substitute and she did not have much experience with the selected hymns.   Well, needing this service to go well the pastor said to her, "I need you to play some music that will inspire people to be very generous". "No problem she said." At the end of the sermon the Pastor asked everyone to stand that would be willing to commit themselves to giving an extra $100.00 a month. Suddenly, young organist began to play "The Star Spangled Banner" and the entire congregation stood up as one. 

Giving proportionately is a necessary part of the life of every Christian.  But we must put it into its proper perspective. 

Tithing is not a requirement of the Law.  The word “tithing” comes from the Old English word for “tenth.”  To tithe means to give one-tenth of one’s income, or 10 percent.  In the Old Testament, God commanded the people of Israel to tithe for the support of the temple, its priests and Levites, and the sacrifices.

Too often many Christians jump from the Old Testament Law tour our current situation under the New Testament and say:
1.       Tithing is still a command of God
2.       If you tithe, God will bless you financially, and if you don’t God will punish you financially.
Two men were marooned on an Island. One man paced back and forth worried and scared while the other man sat back and was sunning himself.  The first man said to the second man, "aren’t you afraid we are about to die." "No," said the second man, "I make $100,000 a week and tithe faithfully to my church every week. My Pastor will find me."  

Please remember that just as Christians today are not under any obligation to circumcise their sons, or abstain from pork and shellfish, so the Old Testament laws regarding tithing do not apply directly to today’s Christians. 

Also, Christ tells us that our life in this world will be difficult.  To say that God will bless us financially if with tithe or do other good works is to manipulate God and deny the Cross of Christ.  We don’t get any special treatment because of the amount we give.

Christian stewardship begins with the understanding that all we have is God’s and that “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Timothy. 6:7). Here at Bethany we would say, “Our stuff is not our stuff.”   Since all we have is God’s, we should use it for His purposes.

The position of the church is the same as that of Paul in our text for today.  Paul was not looking for a gift but was hoping for the gifts and resources of the people to be multiplied. 

I’m not looking for a raise, but we are hoping to ‘raise up’ more ministries and more opportunities here in this place. 
We give sacrificially and proportionately as an offering, wholly and pleasing to God.  And we are reminded that all of our needs are met with the richness of Christ. 

For it was Jesus himself who was the offering, He was the sacrifice; His death on the cross appeased God and covered our sin.  The empty tomb shows that God was pleased with the sacrifice. 

This leads us to a practical dimension of Giving Proportionately.  We have been given everything we need in Christ.  It is a gift beyond measure, without price.  We have not earned it and we don’t deserve it, it is Salvation itself and life eternal in heaven.  What a gift! 

We can with Paul say that we are truly content in all circumstances.  As we give, we get the knowledge that many more will be in the company of the saints in heaven. 

A few months back we were challenged by our Church leadership to consider a proportionate gift to the work of the church.  At that time you were given some statistics. 

Of the approximately 740 giving units here at Bethany, almost 400 of those units gave between $0 and $10 per week.  After a few months of increased giving we have seen that we are right about back where we were before those statistics were shared. 

So, I ask you again, are you giving proportionately?  Knowing that all of your needs are already met in Christ, are you giving a proportionate gift?  If not, now is a good time to start.  Ten percent is a good place to start but is by no means compulsory. 

Giving proportionately produces profits for paradise. Christian activist Corrie Ten Boom once said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”
God holds you in His hand and He will richly fill your every need in a glorious way through Christ.  That is the key to giving proportionately. 

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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