#3 The “Stumbling Blocks To Spirituality” Series
"SUGAR AND SPICE, BUT NOT EVERYTHING NICE!"
TEXT: Matt. 23:23-24 Mal. 3:8-12 2 Cor.9:6-11 Prov. 11:24
INTRO: If you met a person who claimed to be a "born-again" Christian that told you he/she weekly robbed a bank with masks and a revolver in their hand as their way of meeting their needs, what would you think of them?
If you met a person who claimed to be a "born-again" Christian that told you he/she worked hard for a living and were honest, but to other people they were cruel and insensitive, and were unfaithful to commitments they had made to others, what would you think?
You would probably at best consider them one of the poorest examples of being a Christian, or at worst you would doubt the reality of their salvation! Of course you would not likely see yourself as one of these examples but would likely think of someone else you think matches these examples.
ILLUS: A new convert declared his determination to give all that he had for the Master. He said, "Pastor, if I had fifty pigs, I'd give twenty-five of them to the Lord." "That's very nice," said the pastor. "If you had thirty would you give fifteen to the Lord?" "Of course I would," said the new Christian. "If you had ten would you give five of them?" asked the pastor again. "You know I would," he answered. Then the pastor said, "If you had two, would you give one to the Lord?" "Now Pastor, don't ask me that. You know I have only two pigs." -- Unknown
PROP SENT: The Scriptures teach us that we are to be balanced in our walk with God, considering and practicing two important areas of lifestyle ... the material realm and the spiritual realm. We need to let God affect the giving of our tithes and our temperament! The healthy believer is the one who does both!
I. GIVING & GOD Matt. 23:23a,c; Mal. 3:8-9
A. Rightful Portions Matt. 23:23a,c
1. Is giving in the material realm important to God! YES!
a. Jesus carefully tells the Pharisees that they should CONTINUE to tithe, and to also do the other things that are part of temperament.
b. In Matt. 23:23c Jesus states that they are to continue to tithe! Jesus tells them to CONTINUE to tithe, and to add to this the weightier matters of the law like love and justice. Jesus never said to discontinue tithing!
c. It has always amazed me that people have said that Jesus never supported tithing, or that tithing is only an Old Testament concept!
2. In tithing God emphasizes 2 things:
a. God's Ownership.
b. Man's Stewardship.
3. 1 in every 60 verses in the Gospels speaks about money!
4. Jesus spoke of money twice as much as He did heaven and hell combined!
5. Money is mentioned 6 times as much in the Bible as is baptism by water!
6. It is spoken of 45 times more than communion!
7. ALL the Patriarchs, prophets, priests and Pastors tithed in the Bible that was in a right relationship to God!
8. Financial giving was many times the start of great revivals in the Old Testament!
10. Waitresses and waiters are given 15% tips (or more) ... how about God?
11. The taxes on gasoline are around 10% (or more) for each gallon you buy ... do you ignore this or refuse to pay it?
12. God expects His rightful portion, we should not deny Him this!
a. Jesus does not put down the faithfulness of the Pharisees in their giving, they were careful to give God His 10% in everything.
b. If they did this and were evil, how much more careful should we be as God's people who are not evil?!
ILLUS: We would be horrified by someone who called themselves a Christian and yet robbed a local bank at gunpoint weekly ... YET many Christians rob God each week in just as real a fashion when they refuse to give God their tithes ... can this be ignored? HEAVENS NO! God’s own words in Malachi are “robbed” … God’s own words to His own people were: Mal 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.” Those are His words, not mine! – Dennis Marquardt
c. These are not the words of a minister trying to get more money ... but God's Word trying to help the believer have their needs met and be in a position to be blessed by God!
B. Refuser's Penalty! Mal. 3:8-9
1. God attached a penalty to the one who would rob Him by not giving the tithe:
a. You see, giving God 10% of your finances is NOT a financial matter ... it is a SPIRITUAL matter ... we must be careful to see this!
b. Spiritual people therefore will not have a difficult time giving to God His due! They see this as spiritual and not a financial issue!
c. How often? 1 Cor. 16:2 "… first day of the week."
2. Malachi 3:8-9 clearly states that not to give means the believer will live under a financial curse!
a. The whole nation of
b. Many might have been tempted to say, "WHEN I GET CAUGHT UP I WILL TITHE" ... but while they are waiting to give they are operating under a curse which might mean they won't be able to get caught up!
c. This is the irony of giving! If you wait till you can afford it you may not ever give! The curse isn't lifted until you give!
d. Some will always argue, "This is a hard saying, who can hear it?"
ILLUS: An A/G church that was bankrupt and still owed $250,000! The new Pastor had them increase their giving from the 5% they had been giving, to a new level of 10%. Within months they increased it again to 15% and still over months increased it more ... today they are running more than 1,000 people (from their 250 people before) and they are not only doing great financially, but have put up a beautiful new building. Today (around 1990) they were 3½ years ahead of their mortgage payments and paid off 114 acres of property! -- (A/G church in Erie, PA.)
e. Some people say that won’t give their tithes because they feel the leadership isn’t good and they don’t feel they should give tithes to leaders who don’t use it properly. However, when we tithe we aren’t giving it to leaders or people, it is given to God, so this is a poor excuse. God will hold leaders who misuse His tithes accountable, but He will also hold us accountable for what we do or don’t do.
ILLUS: In the book of 1 Samuel, the nation started to withhold the giving of their tithes because they didn't like the evil sons of the priest ELI. Eli's sons were so wicked that God struck them dead ... AND God cursed the nation too for withholding their tithes! ... He brought the wicked Philistines in to destroy their prosperity for their withholding tithes! Even evil priests like the sons of Eli were no excuse for not giving!
3. God has established a "REFUSER'S PENALTY" for the failure to give as He has asked us.
a. No exceptions were made for
this penalty, He calls for all to honor Him with their tithe [WHERE IS IT
SUPPOSE TO BE GIVEN? ... “LOCAL STOREHOUSE!” …
b. Even the poor in the Bible were called upon to give God the tithe ... God made it fair by asking each to give the same percentage.
4. To refuse God His due, is to rob Him just as if you wore a mask and put a gun to His head and took His money! I know this sounds strong ... but this is His Word, not mine!
5. To refuse to give God's due is to invite the "devourer" into your financial life!
6. DON'T MISS GOD'S POINT ... HE IS TRYING TO SHARE WITH US THE SECRETS TO LIVE UNDER HIS BLESSINGS! ... DON'T JUST SEE THE HARDSHIP IN GIVING!
a. I've never known a bankrupt tither!
b. Those who give usually are very stable in their finances; they started by giving, not by getting ahead first and then giving!
7. Of course what we do with the other 90% is just as important too!
8. I spent this much time on this subject because unlike the Pharisees, we don't take the material commands of Christ that serious, just the more spiritually sounding ones; both are considered important by our Lord!
II. GAINING GRACES Matt. 23:23b,c
A. Righteous Priorities Matt. 23:23b
1. The need to add to the temperament; Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness is vital!
a. These are the characteristics of a godly heart ... something the Pharisees lacked!
b. Though they passed the material test, they needed to round out their living with the important matters of the heart!
c. True giving is first a matter of the heart.
ILLUS: We heard of a man and woman who gave a sizeable contribution to the church to honor the memory of their son who lost his life in the war. When the announcement was made of the generous donation, a woman whispered to her husband, "Let's give the same amount for our boy!" Her husband said, "What are you talking about? Our son wasn't killed." "That's just the point," she said. "Let's give it as an expression of our gratitude to God for sparing his life!" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 262.
2. Had they had these qualities of justice, mercy and faithfulness, they would have likely had the qualities of giving anyway! The error was that they PRIDED themselves in their giving (which was wrong since it belonged to God anyway!) and ignored the need to love others in giving these essential qualities of grace!
3. No wonder Jesus says, "GOD LOVES THE CHEERFUL GIVER" ... because just giving money isn't enough either ... it must even be given the right way, with God's graces in our life!
B. Requirements Practiced Matt. 23:23c
1. Jesus thus calls them to do BOTH, not neglect one for the other, but BOTH!
a. The 2 together round out the saint of Christ!
b. Since tithing is also a spiritual matter and not just a financial one Jesus says to them, "IF YOU ARE TRULY SPIRITUAL, DO BOTH!"
2. Jesus didn't want them to just "AMEN" these truths, but to practice them!
a. And so too we today must be careful that we are not just in agreement with God's Word…
b. But that we are also in practice on them!
3. How much we call upon God to give us His grace, mercy, and faithfulness; yet are we willing to practice these also!
a. We must not hold back from 100% participation … being a servant of God includes all areas of our life.
ILLUS: The empire of the Franks had an unusual commitment to Christ, sometimes whole armies were baptized as Christians because of their leader's conversion to Christianity. However, they were at war, and because of this so much was at stake that they didn't want to be too much of a Christian army. So, a solution was found, when baptizing the Franks ... as stated, sometimes a whole army at once, the warriors would go down into the water with only their right hands held high above the waters so that it was the only part of their body not baptized. This way, they could soothe their conscience in war by brutally killing the enemy because their hand had not been baptized! While we don't do this today with swords, some people hold high their pocketbooks so they don't get baptized so they don't have commit their finances to the Lord! -- Unknown
b. We cannot excuse one part of our life while asking God to “anoint” or “bless” the other areas.
4. How often we call upon God to give to us financially, to meet our pressing needs, yet without tithing God cannot respond as He would like, for we exist under a curse! To ask requires that we first are giving!
5. WE MUST PRACTICE ALL AREAS OF CHRISTIANITY ... even in giving, whether our goods or His graces!
6. This principle is true in other areas as well; if we want forgiveness, Jesus calls upon us to be forgivers or we cannot be forgiven, so too with finances.
III. GENEROUSITY & GUARANTEES Mal. 3:10-12; 2 Cor. 9:6-11; Prov. 11:24
A. Rewarded Production Mal. 3:10-12
1. God promises to keep the "devourer" from those who give their tithes & offerings to Him!
a. This promise is still true!
b. We are invited to test God in this ... the only time God says we can test Him in the Bible!
c. NOTE: The term "blessing" indicates more than just "financial" blessings! God's blessings may return in other ways beside greater income, but it will be things that are of greater value than what you gave Him!
d. Such things as salvation of loved ones, the growth of His Spirit in you, the friendships of others, etc.
2. If all tithe, God promises to make that Nation or church the awe and envy of those around them!
a. Ever envy some other Christian that seems to be doing so well, it may not be their income level, they might make the same as you or less ... but they may be tithing while you are not!
b. They will be living under a blessing if they give!
ILLUS: Paul and I
were dairy farmers in the Northern New England town of
3. This point is true also of the important areas Jesus was asking of the Pharisees, such as mercy, justice, faithfulness ... the more you give of this, the more it comes back to you also!
a. To those who are faithful ... they will find many faithful friends around them.
b. To those who forgive, they will find forgiveness when they need it.
c. To those who are fair with others, others will be fair with them.
4. Giving brings us under God's blessings, the lack of it leaves us under His curse!
B. Reducing Poverty 2 Cor. 9:6-11
1. Every farmer knows you must give a certain amount of grain away to the ground in order to receive something back ... something more than you give.
a. Every farmer believes the principle of “sowing and reaping” that God created.
b. Their trust in this is demonstrated every time they plant those seeds, they must plant them BEFORE they get results, not after! They have faith that this principle will always work ... and it does!
2. This principle Paul shares with the Corinthians works in both directions:
a. Sow a little sin you’ll reap a huge harvest of ungodliness!
b. This is why God seems so hard sometimes on little things we do that we shouldn't ... He knows a greater harvest will result if He doesn't plow up our hard heart!
3. Some might think I am being too hard on giving ... yet I'm trying to help you stamp out your poverty, to get out from under the curse of God!
a. Whether the need in you is tithes.
b. Or in temperament!
ILLUS: When you go to a doctor for your annual check-up, he or she will often begin to poke, prod, and press various places, all the while asking, "Does this hurt? How about this?"
If you cry out in pain, one of two things has happened. Either the doctor has pushed to hard, without the right sensitivity. Or, more likely, there's something wrong, and the doctor will say, "We'd better do some more tests. It's not supposed to hurt there!"
So it is when pastors preach on
financial responsibility, and certain members cry out in discomfort, criticizing
the message and the messenger. Either the pastor has pushed too hard.
Or perhaps there's something wrong.
In that case, I say, "My friend,
we're in need of the Great Physician, because it's not supposed to hurt
there." -- Ben
4. The way to reduce poverty is to give up what God asks for, just like the farmer ... if he wants to have more the next year, he must give up some now!
5. "Reaping & Sowing" principle: you'll always receive more of what you sow!
a. Sow evil ... lots more results!
b. Sow righteousness ... lots more results!
6. The aspect of faith in this is that we FIRST sow, then we reap!
a. So many people want God to bless them first and then they will begin giving ... this will never happen because you are at the time living under the curse God pronounced in Mal. 3!
b. Faith means you start, believing God will do as He says!
c. Try it sometime ... with your tithes, and with your temperament:
(1. Give God His due financially first.
(2. Forgive others FIRST and watch your life change as well as those around you!
7. Spiritual poverty would be reduced if we would first give; JUSTICE, MERCY, AND FAITHFULNESS!
a. Some say, "I would come more often if..."
b. "I would be faithful if…"
c. "I would tithe if..."
8. Get out from under God's curse and watch what becomes possible!
9. Remember too ... stewardship is all 100%!
10. Notice in 2 Cor. 9:8 that Paul's says that the one who financially gives will see God "MAKE ALL GRACE ABOUND TOWARD THEM."
a. Financial matters!
b. And all areas!
C. Rewarding Principle Prov. 11:24
1. "Freely giving" … the “no strings attached” kind of giving! Prov. 11:24
a. The person who gives freely ... will never find themselves with less, only more!
b. And yet, they are not giving to get more!
c. Probably why this happens is because he who gives freely counts his giving in careful terms, thus he is really being a steward over the whole, even what is not given!
d. This kind of management can only bring greater rewards!
2. Note too the one who "withholds unduly" comes to poverty!
a. He who withholds is only thinking of self need, thus he will be left alone to make it!
b. If we are left alone to make life work we will more likely fail, we need God and each other!
3. Giving is a rewarding principle! It brings life and happiness to the giver!
ILLUS: No man was ever honored for what he received. Honor is the reward for what he gave. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 241.
a. Thus, "IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE!"
b. We live under God's blessings when we give the tithe and the temperament to Him:
c. We live under God's curses if we don't! The only way out is to give your way out!
d. Ask the farmer if this is always true!
e. Ask the tither if this is always true!
CONCLUSION: Jesus' teaching in this passage is the importance of faithfulness to God from your tithes to your temperament! We are called to BOTH, not just one or the other! We are called to give grace and gold, mercy and money, faithfulness in all areas of life ... when we do; we live under God's blessings and not His curses. Are you faithful in both tithes and temperament? Why not be blessed rather than cursed?