If you ask, "What Can You Do?" meaning what can you do to contribute and help the church you attend and love, our church, improve and accomplish what our church is here to accomplish, #1 "Connect in a Small Group" - Life Group, #2 is "Serve on a Team," #3 is "Give a Percent."
We began discussing Give a Percent, last time I promise. We talked about "Intervention Giving" and "Prevention Giving" and why "Prevention Giving" is better and higher. Our giving is doing something eternal, but also accomplishing something relational. We are partnering with God in kingdom work. Giving is an act of worship, but a better way to say it is giving is a spiritual experience. It's like praise. Praise isn't only singing. It's a spiritual experience as is reading God's word, prayer, etc. The purpose of any spiritual worship is to deal with your heart.
There are more important aspects about our giving we need to talk about. What I feel to do is share a little of Judy's and my giving journey. Financial giving is a journey God takes us on through fear to faith. When any person comes into the kingdom of God one of the areas God begins dealing with is money and our giving. Here's why. Money and our giving is a direct picture of what masters our hearts and what we truly serve. God looks at the heart (1Sa 16:7).
Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, THERE YOUR HEART will be also.
Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two MASTERS. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot SERVE both God and Money.
I hope you don't despise our talking about giving. You can tell a lot about your heart by looking at your checkbook, or auto pay. Where our money goes our heart is. Either money is our master or God is. You know by which commands you. For example, if you can't give to God because VISA, Master Card, and American Express command you to serve them then there is your master. If you can't give to God because a financial institution commands you to serve them then there is your master. It's an ancient truth we continue struggling with today.
Proverbs 22:6-7 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (7) The rich RULE OVER the poor, and the borrower is SERVANT to the lender.
Isn't that interesting? Wonder why God placed those two verses together? One of the main things we should train a child in is how to handle money. That one thing will determine who rules their lives and who their master is. So, when Father God is dealing with our money and giving, he's actually dealing with our hearts training us.
God began training Judy and me on our journey, as he trains you, using inward promptings. With me, the promptings first came to give more than a few $1 bills in the offering. I felt prompted to give $20. Twenty dollars?! But what about... Fear put up a wall. $20 was a pretty big wall for us in 1978 when we had a house payment, two car payments, in debt up to our eyeballs with credit cards, both of us working, and two children to raise. There was no $20 extra to give, but, well, ok. I'll work it out. We broke through that fear wall.
I've learned some things about fear. One thing is fear is overcome by fear. For example, the fear of going to the dentist is overcome by the fear of losing your teeth. The fear of going to school or college is overcome by the fear of being ignorant, poor, and unsuccessful. One fear is overcome by a superior fear. So fear is not bad and there's no such thing as living fear free.
Proverbs 9:10 "The FEAR of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom...
Wisdom is not our being without fear. Wisdom is prioritizing our fears. That's what we had to do. For me, the fear I had concerning giving was overcome by the fear of not giving. Which do I fear most: not giving as prompted, or not having God involved in my finances and heart? Which do I fear most: VISA, or God?
God promptings go something like this: Inwardly we feel prompted to give. It's in the arena of our conscience - right and wrong. We know what we should do. I'd say, "Lord, I'm not totally 100 percent comfortable giving this, but I'm too uncomfortable not to give it. I really want you involved in my life. I really want your blessings." So, we gave. Until we break through the fear barrier with a higher fear we remain paralyzed right there. Once through it $20 was no big deal and I was embarrassed I allow $20 to frighten me. Money was my master.
Next, our prompting was to become percentage givers, but there was no money. I could do $20, but a percentage? I don't think so. There was the fear again. Judy and I desired to do it. Like you, we discussed it. Her reluctance was not in giving a percentage. Her reluctance was I would not pay our bills and we'd find ourselves in a deeper mess. However, exactly as we gave the $20, we gave the percentage. It was important to us and we began working our giving into our finances. If we could be faithful to VISA, we could be faithful to God. Then we began working our finances around our giving instead of working our giving according to our finances. We gave to God first. Another fear was defeated by a higher fear and I was slowly learning God is somehow in this as all the bills were somehow paid.
Next were special offerings promptings. I remember one back in the early 80's, our church wanted to purchase a satellite dish and equipment to receive special teachings from great teachers. Judy and I discussed it and felt to give $500 toward it. As a young family we didn't have $500 period, much less to give. We felt prompted strongly and decided if we could borrow thousands of dollars to buy a car, we could borrow $500 to give for God's teaching. We did. We don't suggest this. I'm sharing our journey, our promptings, and our fears.
Percentage giving became a lifestyle. Percentage giving was no big deal and not fearful. Special offering giving was no big deal. We'd pray, ask what we should give, and give it. We'd gotten through the fear we thought. Then one day in a service right here the prompting of God was to give our house. I'd never heard of such a thing. We'd built a house debt free. It appraised in 1988 for $72,000. Today the house and property would appraise for around $200,000. The house was our security net. In case the ministry didn't work, we could always go back to our house. I honestly cried sitting on the front row dealing with the prompting of God in my heart. Talk about fear! "Lord, that's my wife's house." I wasn't even close to being comfortable with doing it, but I recognized the prompting of God and I was far more uncomfortable to not do it. We did. How many people get to write a check close to $70,000 to anything much less to their church? My parents and others though we had lost our minds. I wasn't sure myself.
I could project our giving as if I was a great man of faith and Judy was a great woman of faith faithfully following her man as he followed God. That would be a false projection, at least for me. I wasn't. I went through the same fears you go through. We just did it. As uncomfortable as we were to give, we were more uncomfortable to not give. We believed in what God was doing in our church and our lives. Our treasure and hearts were in the kingdom of God and money was not our master.
I need to tell you a little about what God did for us during our giving journey. After coming to the kingdom of God in 1978, we wanted to be out of debt. Who doesn't, right? We were like most young couples with a negative income. Judy worked and made good money. I worked and made excellent money, but we had no money. I was studying God's word and giving, but living the following verse.
Haggai 1:6 "You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but NEVER HAVE ENOUGH. You drink, but NEVER HAVE YOUR FILL. You put on clothes, but are NOT WARM. You earn wages, only to put them in a PURSE WITH HOLES IN IT." This is what the LORD Almighty says: "GIVE CAREFUL THOUGHT TO YOUR WAYS."
Ever feel your money is going out holes? It is. We all have holes. Judy and I were diligently serving God, giving a percentage and sowing, but there remained no money. It was a purse with holes in it. One night praying about this I felt prompted to literally write out a prayer to be a plan to become debt free. I won't go into the details, but my plan would take two years. I was to take the prayer plan to Judy. She and I would agree, anoint it with oil, lay hands on it, and pray over it. I did and we did. Within two years we were not only out of debt, but were living in a totally new home.
Shortly afterwards we moved to LaFayette and trusted God through the good and tough times of a new ministry. There were many of both. It was during those times we gave our house, but not long afterwards moved into an even nicer house we now own debt free. We put a child through college and supported another to fulfill her dream. We owe no man anything financially (Rom 13:8). God has blessed us, but not only financially and not only because we went on the giving journey. I don't want it to be heard that way, but I do know it played a part. There have been so many miraculous and amazing things. If I attempted to tell them all, the world itself could not contain the books (Joh 21:25). We've been very sensitive to God's promptings and more uncomfortable and fearful to not follow them than to allow fear to stop us. We fear God not being involved in our lives and refuse to do anything hindering his involvement.
I'm not smart enough to make the things happen we've been blessed by. It's been supernatural. We've been through every fear concerning giving you and your spouse will go through and probably more. It's been a life of literally depending on God daily for shelter, food, transportation, and every element of life. We can tell you God is faithful. We don't know what all the money we've given during our giving journey accomplished. It doesn't matter. I do know this. It accomplished something in my heart nothing else could. I know where my heart is and I know who my master is.
Let's look at some scriptures. I'll attempt to pick us up from where we stopped last time.
Malachi 3:8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In TITHES and offerings... Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse...
As certainly as there are different "offerings" there are different "tithes." Three to be exact. Malachi goes on to explain the percentage (tithe) we bring to the "storehouse" - Prevention Percent. This is the one most are familiar. Let's look at the other two.
Deuteronomy 14:22-26 Thou shalt truly TITHE all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth YEAR BY YEAR. AND THOU SHALT EAT BEFORE THE LORD THY GOD, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, THE TITHE of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; THAT THOU MAYEST LEARN TO FEAR the LORD thy God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: THEN SHALT THOU TURN IT INTO MONEY, and BIND UP THE MONEY IN THINE HAND, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: AND THOU SHALT BESTOW THAT MONEY FOR WHATSOEVER THY SOUL LUSTETH AFTER, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or FOR WHATSOEVER THY SOUL DESIRETH: and thou shalt eat there BEFORE THE LORD THY GOD, and thou SHALT REJOICE, thou, and thine household
Tithe is singular in verse 22. Obviously, this is totally different from the tithe (percentage) in Malachi to go into the storehouse. This tithe is for the giver - you. They were to go to Jerusalem for feasts. Instead of herding livestock or carrying bushels of grain, vegetables, fruit, etc, they were to turn it into money (NIV - exchange - v 25) and keep the money - bind up the money in thine hand (hold onto it tightly - save it) and join the party (feast). They were to use that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after... for whatsoever thy soul desireth (v 26). It was a tithe - a percentage - to themselves. There they were to enjoy it "before the Lord." (NIV - "in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice.") God wants us to enjoy life before him and with him. It is a partnership and a relationship.
I trust I've helped us understand "That thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always." It's prioritizing your fear (Pro 9:10). We'll show the last tithe and then put it all together.
Deuteronomy 14:28 At the END OF THREE YEARS thou shalt bring forth all the TITHE of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; THAT THE LORD THY GOD MAY BLESS THEE in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
The purpose of this tithe is for intervention giving. It's obviously different. Instead of year by year as previously, this one is at the end of three years and for the supporting ministry, transients, orphans, widows, those needing assistance. Jesus called this alms.
Matthew 6:3-4 But when thou doest ALMS, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy FATHER WHICH SEETH IN SECRET HIMSELF shall reward thee openly.
The NIV says, "when you give to the needy." Years ago we established a "Missions" or "Alms" account. It's been used greatly by God since to assist in intervention. It allows us to help people in a way most churches can't. It's the best way I know to not let my left hand know what my right hand is doing. I have no idea who the money I give helps. I just know it does.
In Deuteronomy it said, "That the Lord thy God may bless thee." Jesus said, "Thy Father which seeth in secret HIMSELF shall reward thee openly." There is a very special blessing directly from God HIMSELF when we give this. I know those who do give here are specially blessed.
In God's economy there is the percentage given to the place of worship for prevention. There is a percentage given to ourselves and there is a percentage giving to alms. Here's the way Judy and I and many of you put it all together. Let's use $500 weekly income for simplicity. Every week we would write a check for our percentage giving for $50 for the local church and prevention giving. Next, $50 goes to us. I use direct deposit from our checking to our savings. If I don't, it will go out a hole somewhere. Lastly, we would write a second check for $17.00 ($16.67) as a one-third tithe (third year tithe). Instead of doubling up the third year, which would be difficult, we simply add a third of a tithe to be given for the purpose of intervention. This works really well for us.
The best part of our giving for me is not I fulfill the commands of the scriptures. It's I get to partnership with God in the greatest work ever - kingdom work. Church work. It's what Jesus works through in this world and the only entity with the power to truly change lives. It changed my life and your life. Because of that, I know it works. Our giving is a spiritual experience and we know it pleases God in a special way. God loves everybody, but there's a special love for the giver who is happy about giving. This final verse is sort of our testimony.
2 Corinthians 9:7-8 You must EACH MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND AS TO HOW MUCH YOU SHOULD GIVE. Don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For GOD LOVES THE PERSON WHO GIVES CHEERFULLY. And GOD WILL GENEROUSLY PROVIDE ALL YOU NEED. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. (TNLT)