How are Christians today supposed to view the issue of financial giving to the Church? Is there a difference between the old covenant commands given to Israel and the instructions given to the Church by Jesus and the Apostles? We’ll tackle these controversial questions by (as always) looking at Scripture and seeing what the Lord has to say to His people.
Well, last week we looked at the shocking tale of Ananias and Sapphire in Acts chapter five one through eleven. Their deaths occurred because they were motivated to lie and receive by their love of money. And while we didn't have time to dig further into the subject, then I believe it would be profitable for us to do so today. And so I'm going to share a brief overview of the issue of believers and money under the Old Covenant, and then we're going to look at the same issue under the new coveting. When Jesus summed up the law into just two commands, he explained the greatest command was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
And the second greatest was to love your neighbor as yourself. Therefore, God's specific commandments to his people regarding money naturally reflect those two great commands coveting God above all else and coveting your neighbor as yourself. To help his people live out the greatest commandment, the Lord instructed them to give Him the first of everything. The first male born from every livestock was to be sacrificed to the Lord. The first son of every Israelite belonged to the Lord and had to be redeemed with a financial offering at the tabernacle and later the temple.
The first of the harvest from every field and the first of the in gathering at the end of the harvest season from every field was to be given to the Lord. And there are other examples. The idea behind giving God the first was placing God in the position of priority. It was about coveting a pattern of living wherein honoring God became the first thought rather than an afterthought. In all things, god was to have priority, and God was to be given the best, not the leftovers.
You didn't go through your harvest and pick out the smallest of each fruit that you could and then give that to God. You gave God the first of your harvest period. And so that's the first thing I'm going to have us write down. God commanded his people to honor Him as their first priority. He wanted to be their first priority and to help them know how much they should give.
God implemented the Tie, the word that means 10th. And so when it came to income or anything you had harvested, god was to be given a tithe, the first 10%. And the genius of the tithe is that it's proportional. It's not a fixed amount. You have less, the amount will be less, you have more, the amount will be more.
God explained the point of tithing to his people in Deuteronomy 1423, which the Living Bible renders this way. It's on your outlines. The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives. Under the law, God's people were called to actually bring multiple tithes to the Tabernacle and later the temple. For any income they acquired during the year, for anything they harvested, for every livestock, animal, and more.
Additionally, they were called to bring offerings to the tabernacle on the feasts and later the temple multiple times each year. God didn't allow each person to determine where their tithes and offerings went. They didn't get to pick a charity of their choice. His command was bring it to the Lord's house. And that's because their tithes and offerings were used to cover three main expenses that I've listed on your outlines.
Firstly, the tithes and offerings of the people were used to pay the expenses of the maintenance of the Lord's house, the running of the temple, and the tabernacle, the upkeep of it. It was also used to cover the expenses of the salaries of those who worked in the tabernacle and temple, which was the Levitical priests. And then thirdly, their tithes and offerings were to be used to meet the practical needs of the people of Israel. When it came to cases like abandoned widows that we talked about last week, the sicken infirmed the orphans, and the destitute among God's people, historians estimate the percentage of income the average Israelite would give per year to be around 23 3%. And I should mention, though, that under God's law, that would have been it.
That was God's command for society, so there wouldn't have been any other taxes or fees or anything like that in the country. Additionally, God's instructions to Israel came with amazing, amazing promises and guarantees. God promised them that if they honored the Sabbath day, he would make sure they were more productive in six days than all the surrounding cultures were in seven days. And he promised them that whatever they gave to Him in tides and offerings, he would give back to them even more. Not figuratively, not spiritually, but literally.
Whatever the amount of your harvest was that you gave to the Lord, he promised that he would move supernaturally to not only make up for it, but to give you back even more. But here's the crazy part. Israel would still fall away and stop obeying God over and over again, even though they had and would experience the blessings of God's promises. They had lived it, they had seen it. But familiarity breeds contempt, and after a while, they just took it for granted.
But when they obeyed God with their tithes and offerings, they would be blessed in the same way they gave. Their land would be supernaturally blessed and absurdly productive. You could put someone like me in charge of growing fruit and vegetables and it would work. This is the sort of stuff that was happening when they disobeyed God and refused to honor them with their tithes and offerings. Their land would be supernaturally cursed and unproductive.
Didn't matter what they did. Now, you would think they would figure out the pattern, right? But instead they talk among themselves during those rough times and say, hey, do you think maybe we're starving and agriculturally unproductive because we're not honoring the Lord with what we're producing? I only ask because I remember God saying specifically that this is what would happen if we didn't honor Him with what we were producing. And then the other guy would be like, Nah.
And then the other guy would be like, yeah, that makes sense. And that's what God is talking about when he speaks to Israel in Malachi, chapter three, verses seven through twelve. And that's how the Old Testament era ends, with 400 years of God's people refusing to put Him first and refusing to honor Him rightly in their lives, including in their finances. Jesus lived a perfect life in our place. He died for our sins on the cross, and then he rose from the grave in victory over death, making it possible for us to share in his victory over death.
The incarnational work of Jesus ushered in the new covenant. Nobody could live up to the standard of God's law, therefore nobody could be saved under the law. So Jesus lived a perfect life and fulfilled the law on our behalf. Under the New Covenant, we are saved by faith in what Jesus has done, rather than our inevitably inadequate attempt to keep God's law perfectly. The old Covenant was salvation through lawkeeping, which was impossible.
The new Covenant is salvation by faith in the finished work of Jesus on our behalf. Paul wrote to the Galatians, it's on your outlines because we know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Even we ourselves have believed in Christ Jesus. This was so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law, no human being will be justified. And in Romans ten four, Paul explicitly tells us that believers are no longer under the law.
Writing Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Wrestling with this for years and growing in my grasp and understanding of what this truly means has resulted in me concluding that believers cannot be under the monetary commands of the law. Almost every pastor teaches from Malachi, chapter three, when they teach on giving and tithing. I have two many times. The problem is that God was speaking to his covenant people, Israel, regarding their failure to keep the law and the covenant that he had given them and made with them.
The church is not under the law and is not party to the covenants that God made with Israel. According to Malachi, chapter three, if I tithe, God will give me back more money than I gave. But that's not true. That's not what happens. I know because I've been tithing since I was a child, and pastor will try and explain it away by saying, well, God can give you back more in many ways.
Maybe he'll make you rich with friends, or maybe he will make your car not break down. There's lots of ways God can do this, but that's playing games with the text, because that's not what God says. In Malachi, chapter three, the clear concept, the clear covenant, the clear offer God is making to Israel is honor me tithe, give the first of your income to me, your money, and I will give you back more money than you give to me. The reason we don't see that principle work today is because that offer is not for us. It was for Israel under the law, under the Old Covenant.
Another favorite that I've wrongly taught before is when Jesus is correcting the wrong motivations of the religious leaders. I know that's not very specific in Matthew 23 23, and he says to them, woe to you, scribes and Pharisees. Hypocrites. You pay a 10th of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.
What Jesus is saying there is you guys are so focused on keeping the details of the law that you literally tied out of your spice rack. Let me get 10% out of my pepper shaker here. But you guys are completely missing the heart behind the Law. You don't love God. You don't love your neighbor.
You should be honoring God with your tithes, but you should also practice the heart of the law justice, mercy, and faithfulness. And so pastor will say, well, here is Jesus clearly endorsing tithing. And that's true. But Jesus hadn't yet died and risen from the dead. Jesus'ministry, before his death, was under the Old Covenant because Jesus was still fulfilling the Law on our behalf.
After the resurrection of Jesus. There is no mention in Scripture of believers tithing or giving because of any Old Testament commandment. If me or any other pastor wants to teach tithing as a Biblical command, I must explain how believers can be free from the Law, but still under the Law's command to tithe. I have to explain that theologically. So write this down.
Don't say amen. You're going to look stupid in a minute. Okay, write this down.
New Covenant believers are not under the Law's financial commandments. We're not paul's explicit about it. The reason I said don't amen that too loud is that you need to know that Jesus had a lot to say about money during his earthly ministry. In fact, around one third of all of Jesus'teachings and parables are about money and material possessions. Jesus said things like, no one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and money. And Jesus repeatedly reinforced the heart of the Law in his teachings. Love God above all else, and love your neighbor as yourself. It's not like when the New Covenant arrived, jesus said, I no longer care about you loving me above all else, and I no longer care about you loving your neighbor as yourself because you're not under the law. That's not what happened.
The New Covenant changed two major things. Firstly, we are saved by faith in the finished work of Jesus and not by our works. And secondly, the Holy Spirit gives us the power we need to obey Jesus and live lives that please Him. So even under the New Covenant, obviously God still wants us to love Him above all else. Obviously he still wants us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, including in the area of finances.
Earlier, I shared that God commanded his people to give their tithes and offerings to the tabernacle and later the temple, because God wanted to use them to cover three main expenses the maintenance of the Lord's house, the salaries of those who work in the Lord's house, and to meet the practical needs represented within the people of God. When Jesus instituted the New Covenant, he didn't give Peter and the apostles American Express black cards with an unlimited balance and say, these are to cover all the expenses of the church. Just pass them on through the centuries. Nobody needs to give anymore. Jesus didn't supernaturally incline the heart of every business owner to give churches whatever they needed for free, like the tabernacle and the temple, the church still has practical expenses like rent, mortgages, supplies, vehicles, computers, office supplies, all kinds of things.
The church also has, like the tabernacle and temple fulltime and parttime workers and the New Covenant. New Testament scriptures teach this in Galatians six six let the one who has taught the word share all his good things with the teacher. That's referring to practical, material things like money. It's not referring to good vibes. Okay, paul wrote to Timothy in his first letter to him the elders who are good leaders are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.
For the Scripture says, do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain, and the worker is worthy of his wages. Paul's point is that the church body has an obligation to financially provide for those who work at the church. And he uses the term double honor because he's saying that the church body should value the work that their elders do more than they value other common services they receive. The church body shouldn't say, oh, I value what the pastor do as much as I value what my automotive mechanic does. Paul is saying there should be a difference in how you value what you receive from those two people.
And Paul goes even harder at the corinthians about this point because they were not properly financially providing for him, Barnabas, and the church's elders. You see, when Paul and barnabas would go into a new town with the Gospel. They would often work a job while they were planting a church so that no one could accuse them of doing it for money. But once people had come into the faith, once a church had been established, once elders had been appointed, the expectation was that those people who made up the church would begin to financially contribute to meeting the expenses of the church and of the elders of the church. But the Corinthians were several years in, and they still weren't doing that.
And Paul wasn't happy about it. So he writes this in one Corinthians, chapter nine. Take a look at it. Beginning in verses three, he says my defense to those who examine me is this don't we have the right to even drink? Don't we have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife like the other apostles, the Lord's brothers and cephas?
That's Peter. In other words, he's saying, when we travel and minister, shouldn't our churches provide enough financial compensation that we can bring our wives with us when we travel somewhere to preach the Gospel? Verse six or do only Barnabas and I have no right to refrain from working? In other words, do we just have to have side hustles forever because you guys don't want to give? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense, who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit, or who shepherds a flock and does not drink the milk from the flock?
Am I saying this from a human perspective? Doesn't the Law also say the same thing? For it is written in the law of Moses do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain. Is God really concerned about oxen? Isn't he really saying it for our sake?
Yes, this is written for our sake. Because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threses should thresh in hope of sharing the crop. If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material benefits from you? If others have the right to receive benefits from you, don't we even more? Nevertheless, we've not made use of this right.
Instead, we endure everything so that we will not hinder the Gospel of Christ. Don't you know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should earn their living by the Gospel. I just want to share with you some stuff that most people don't ever know. While most people are starting their careers, climbing the ladder in whatever your career is starting businesses, most people who end up being elders and pastors are working for nothing, working in poverty.
And then, as soon as things start to get going, many of them go plant a church and push the reset button right back down to zero. And so what happens for people like Paul and like Barnabas? Many pastors get to middle age, they have, like, almost nothing. And people think, well, no, you have something. When I say nothing, I mean zero saved for retirement, zero savings.
Been living on faith for like, two decades because they devoted themselves to the work of the Kingdom of God and were not motivated by money at all. Because God is a coveting father, his plan is not that the church body that he gives to those elders would look on and say, that's great, you're going to be so rich in heaven. Because God is a loving father. He specifically, in His Word, tells churches, take care of your elders, take care of your pastors. They're worthy of double honor.
And if you think there's a conflict of interest, I'll just tell you straight up, who else is going to tell you this? You're like, don't you have a conflict of interest, Jeff? No. I teach the word of God. If you've been here, then you know we teach the word of God no matter what it says.
And that's what we're doing right here, and that is what it says. Paul is clear that just as the Lord provided for the Levitical priests in the tabernacle and temple through the giving of his people, his plan is to provide for the elders of his church through the giving of his people. Thirdly, just two weeks ago, we did an entire study on how the church has a mandate today to meet the practical needs of the brethren. God's plan for the church is for the people of God to give in such a way that the practical costs of running the church can be met, the salaries of the church staff can be paid, and the practical needs of the brethren can be met. So are New Covenant believers free from tithing?
There is no prescribed amount we are required to give under the New Covenant. But if we love Jesus, we will covet his church. If we love Jesus, we will not allow his bride to be financially neglected or destitute. If we love Jesus, we will not provide building our kingdom over building the kingdom of God. And if we love Jesus, then we will love and care for the people he has given us as shepherds.
And practically all of that means that if we love Jesus, we will give to the church in a way that allows the church to meet the expenses of running the church, paying the staff, meeting the practical needs of the brethren. So write this down. God's plan is still to fund his work through his people. His plan is still to fund his work through his people. As New Covenant believers, we're still called to put God first in everything.
We're still called to make Him the priority in every area of our lives. And I wish I didn't have to, but I need to be really clear and practical on what this means in the area of money. It means that we give to God first as our financial priority. Now, I know the government is in rebellion against God by placing themselves upstream and putting their hand in your pocket before you can even put your hand in your pocket. But as best you can, God is to be your priority.
The first thing that we honor with our money because we love Jesus, we love his church. We're called to give to the Lord as our priority and sacrificially. That means we care more. This is going to be a paradigm shift for some of you. We care more about honoring God with our money than we do about our creature comforts.
I'm going to be really frank here. Streaming TV services are a luxury. They're not a need. Many of us buy way more clothes than we need. For many of us, in reality, even cars are luxuries.
Eating out is a luxury. And I could go on and on. But many of us, what we do is we meet all of our wants first, not our needs. We meet all of our wants first and then see what's left over. God gets a 20.
Here you go. God is all that was left over. And that's not giving God priority. That's not giving sacrificially, that's not honoring God. Now, please understand this.
I know that for some, $20 is a massive sacrifice because that's all you have to spend on your wants. And if that's you, man, God is honored. He's honored, but he's not honored when we take care of all our wants first and then throw something at Him out of whatever's left over. I hope you understand what I'm saying. The issue is not the dollar amount.
The issue is honoring God first. Honoring God sacrificially and honoring Him ahead of our own wants. The New Covenant believer doesn't view God as owning a percentage of his income. That's not how the New Covenant believer thinks. The New Covenant believer views the Lord as owning all of it.
All of it. Let me say that again. The New Covenant believer doesn't view God as owning a percentage of his wealth. He views the Lord as owning all of it. And so, the question the New Covenant believer asks is not what does the law require me to give it's?
What are you calling me to give, Lord? At any time, with no limitations, new Covenant believers have been regenerated. God's given us a new heart. And when it covet to money, the evidence of our new heart is a desire to give, a desire to be generous, a desire to honor God, a desire to trust Him. We don't do it because we have to.
We do it because we love Jesus, and we love his church. I tithe not because I'm under the law, but because I want to have a plan. I want to have a plan that produces a baseline for me to give sacrificially and consistently in my life. I make a plan because that's what we do when something is important to us. If meeting with someone is important to us, we don't just say, yeah, next Thursday at seven, and then walk away and go, hope I remember that.
We write it down somewhere. We put it in our phone, in our calendar. I put a reminder in there an hour before the appointment so that when I forget, I have an hour to panic before I go have the appointment. Thinking ahead, we plan for the things that are important. So, I tithe because I want to have a plan to give sacrificially and consistently.
I know other believers who do similar things. They have a percentage that they give every month. But I view everything I have as belonging to God, and he can call me to give whatever he wants much more than that. And sometimes he does, because it's all his. When the New Testament writers speak about giving under the New Covenant, they always speak about it as being Spirit-led.
But none of them were ever under the impression that being led by the Spirit would cause a believer to give less than they gave under the Law. There's nothing of that thinking in the New Testament because being led by the Spirit always produces greater faith, not lesser faith. And I really don't want any of us to be confused. SpiritLed giving does not mean that you asked yourself the question, what am I comfortable giving? Spirit led giving means you ask the question, what are you calling me to give, Lord?
And we know the Lord's answer will involve faith. And so if it involves faith, it's going to be sacrificial, because faith is not generally convenient. If it's not inconvenient and it's not a sacrifice, it's not faith. What do you need faith for?
Scripture says without faith, it is impossible to please God. We don't have the promise of Malachi, chapter three. God doesn't promise you and me that if we give Him money, give me 100, I'll shoot you back 130. He doesn't say, that be pretty fun, right? Instead we get a far better offer.
Far better offer. In Matthew six, Jesus told his disciples, don't store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don't break in and steal, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Jesus tells us that as we lay down our lives for Him, as we serve Him and give as he leads us, including in the area of finances, we store up treasure in heaven. And Jesus exhorts us, encourages us to understand that a new car is going to rust and break down over the decades. But the treasures we store up in heaven will last forever and bring us enjoyment for eternity.
And he goes on in Matthew Chapter six, to say therefore in other words, for this reason, guys, I tell you, don't worry about your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky. They don't sow or reap or gather into barns. Yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.
Aren't you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his lifespan by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow. They don't labor or spin thread.
Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that's how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and throw into the furnace tomorrow, won't he do much more for you? You of little faith? So don't worry saying what will we eat? Or what will we drink or what will we wear?
For the Gentiles, the unbelievers eagerly seek all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore, don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. The second offer Jesus makes is that if we'll prioritize living for Him and his kingdom, he'll make sure we have whatever we need.
Do you get why that's such an incredible offer? Because when we put them together, we get this offer live for me and my kingdom, and you'll store up treasure in heaven. But Lord, if I do that, how are my needs going to be met in the meantime? If you do that, I'll personally make sure that your needs are met. That's a far better offer than Malachi chapter Three even though we're not under the law, we are still under the law of sowing and reaping.
Paul told the stingy Corinthians that he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. If your practical needs aren't being met, you need to honestly ask yourself am I seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness? Because if you're not, God doesn't promise to meet all of your needs. It's a conditional promise. Do you see that?
It's a conditional promise. It's not, you can do whatever you want and I'll meet your needs. It's seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then I'll meet all of your needs. Sometimes the church is called to step in and meet practical needs, as we saw two weeks ago with the abandoned widows in one Timothy chapter five. But the church is not called to step.
In and meet the practical needs of believers who are not seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. So if your practical needs aren't being met and you're not honoring God with your finances, you're not putting them first. You're not being led by the Spirit in your giving. Don't ask for prayer about your practical needs. Don't do it.
God has told you in his word what you need to do. Don't come and ask for prayer as though you want a second opinion. God has been clear you need to put Him first, be led by the Spirit and give in a God honoring way. When we refuse to do things God's way, we can't complain. When we don't experience his provision or his blessings.
Let me say that again. When we refuse to do things God's way, we can't complain when we don't experience his provision or his blessings. This is a mega rule for the Christian life. Any area of our lives, if there's struggle or difficulty, the first question to ask is, am I putting God first? Am I honoring Him in this area of my life?
Am I doing things his way? This is true of marriage, parenting, family, money, work, everything. Number one question to ask yourself before we act like it's a mystery, go to the word, am I doing things God's way in this area of my life? I'll tell you from my own experience in my own life to an embarrassing degree, I find that I'm not doing things God's way when I find myself in those situations and there's a correction that I need to make to get in alignment with the Lord. Take a look at one Corinthians, chapter nine, verse seven.
We're going to hang out here for the last part of the message. I shared this verse last week. Paul told the Corinthians each person should do as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver and God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. Now, anybody who reads that and says, this is great because I hate giving and the Bible frees me from doing so, hallelujah, is like the person who says, great, we're not under the law, so I'm not going to give anything. Both are missing the point entirely.
Paul's point is that believers should want to give and should derive joy from giving. Elders shouldn't have to worry about trying to wrestle money from their brothers and sisters by pleading with them just to cover the bills of the church or to have enough money to feed their families. Churches shouldn't have to share emotional testimonies that pull at the heartstrings just to get believers to give. We shouldn't have to talk about giving on a regular basis. It should just happen.
It should be the habit and practice and custom of every believer. Churches only talk about giving and tithing on a regular basis because the overwhelming majority of believers are not cheerful givers. They're reluctant. That's the truth. And if they don't, they won't give and churches won't be able to financially survive.
Believers should be cheerful givers because they love their church, they love their brothers and sisters, they love the Lord, they love their elders, they're excited to be used by God, they're excited to store up treasure in heaven and they're excited to honor God. And if none of that makes you want to give, paul still has good news for you. He says, God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work. That's Paul saying, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God is able to change even your stingy and ungrateful heart so that you become a cheerful giver. That's what Paul is saying.
The Corinthian Church went through the process of allowing the Holy Spirit in God's word to change them and grow them into people who gave cheerfully in faith and sacrificially. There were some years around the middle of the first century when a terrible famine affected the church in Jerusalem. People were starving, and Paul felt an obligation to help. So he raised money from the churches that he had planted to buy food and get that food to the believers of the Jerusalem Church. This was a special offering above and beyond the regular giving of believers.
Paul believed, and so did these other churches, that every other church was indebted to the Jerusalem Church because the Jerusalem Church was the father of all other churches. It was the OG. It was the church literally founded on the apostles. In his first letter to the Corinthians, in one Corinthians 16 one, paul writes to them now about the collection for the saints. Do the same as I instructed the Galatian churches, on the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save in keeping with how he is prospering, so that no collections will need to be made when I come.
When I arrive, I will send with letters those you recommend to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it is suitable for me to go as well, they'll travel with me. Here's what Paul is telling the Corinthians to do. He says, discern what the Lord would have you give to this special offering. Make a plan, and on the first day of each week, set that money aside.
The amount of money that God will call you to give will be proportionate to how much money you have, but be led by the Spirit. And then when I arrive to collect the special offering, just come and bring it to the church and give it to me. We're not going to have a special service, paul says. I'm not going to show you a video of believers starving in Jerusalem set to sad music. Just ask the Lord what he wants you to give and then obey.
Just do that. No drama, no manipulation. Just be led by the Spirit. When he writes his second letter to the Corinthians, paul is still coveting money for the believers in Jerusalem because they're still going through it. And he writes to the church in Corinth, we want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace that was given to the churches of Macedonia during a severe trial brought about by affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
I can testify that according to their ability, and even beyond their ability of their own accord, they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints. And not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us by God's will. So the believers in Macedonia, they were going through their own afflictions that had placed them in extreme poverty. So Paul wasn't even planning on asking them to give to the Jerusalem believers.
But when the believers in Macedonia heard about what was happening in Jerusalem, they approached Paul and begged for the privilege to give financially. You see, God stirred up so much grace in their hearts that they continued to meet the needs of their own church as they should have. And then above and beyond that gave with wild generosity to Paul's fund for the believers in Jerusalem. And here's what I can tell you. You better believe their heavenly Father took care of their practical needs after he called them to do that.
And then Paul writes, so we urged Titus that just as he had begun, so he should also complete among you this act of grace. This made Paul go tell Titus to go and tell the Corinthian believers, guys, this is what's going on in Macedonia. They're demonstrating radical love, grace and generosity. You guys need to step it up. And Paul writes to them now, as you excel in everything, in faith, speech, knowledge, and in all diligence and in your love for us, excel also in this act of grace.
The act of grace he's talking about is the act of giving. He says, Guys, you're doing a good job Corinthians, in faith, in speech, and growing in your knowledge of the Lord and being diligent. You've improved. You're now taking care of your elders; you're taking care of us. Now go even further.
See what the Lord wants to do through you here. And then Paul says, I'm not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I'm testing the genuineness of your love. Paul says, this isn't a command, but this does tell us something about your love for God and your love for his people. And then Paul says - underline this... I didn't tell you where it was. I'm sorry. It's in 2 Corinthians 8. Paul has this incredible line. He says, for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, for your sake, he became poor so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Let me read it again. Connected to giving. Paul tells the Corinthians, for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, for your sake, he became poor so that by his poverty you might become rich. This is why God loves a cheerful giver, because it is hypocritical to be a reluctant giver and to be a Christian.
Every Christian has benefited from the radical generosity of God, the generosity of a father who gave his only begotten Son for us, the generosity of Jesus who gave his life for us. And we're counting dollars and cents while serving that kind of God.
This is why God loves a cheerful giver because when we're not cheerful givers, he looks at us and says, do you get it? Like, do you get it how much you've benefited from my generosity? And now when I call you to be generous, your response is, I don't know if I can do that. Might be too much.
Paul says, you know the Lord, so you know what the grace of giving looks like. And then he says, and in this matter, I am giving advice because it is profitable for you, who began last year, not only to do something but also to want to do it. He says, you're storing up treasure in heaven when you do this. This isn't like a write off or just an aimless loss. It's profitable for you when you excel in the grace of giving.
And then Paul says, now also finish the task. So that just as there was an eager desire, there may also be a completion according to what you have. That's Paul saying, plan to give. Plan to give. When the Lord stirs your heart and gives you the grace to give, follow through by making a plan.
And he closes with for if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what a person has not according to what he does not have. In other words, if you're led by the Spirit, if you have a cheerful heart and a desire to give, you're giving what the Lord has called you to do. He is blessed by your giving. Period. He's blessed by your giving.
We're called to give cheerfully because we love our church, we love our brothers and sisters, we love our elders, we love to be used by the Lord, we love to honor God, and we love to store up treasure in heaven. If you're doing that, praise God. Well done. Continue in the grace of giving. If you're not doing that, ask the Lord to change your heart.
Ask Him to give you the grace that you need. And then make a plan. Make a plan. Ask the Lord what he wants you to give and then give it. Write a check the same day of the month, every two weeks, every one week, whatever it is.
Set up an automatic giving transfer on the website. But make a plan to follow through on the desire to give and understand that it's going to involve faith. It's going to involve faith. It's going to be inconvenient, it's going to be sacrificial. But when you get nervous and fearful, remember God's promise to you if you seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he'll make sure all your needs are met.
It's not my promise. That's God's promise. If we all give as the Lord is calling us to, the needs of our church will be met. I guarantee it. But I also believe that God loves to give resources to believers in churches who are cheerful, faithful givers.
Because I think the Lord is looking for faithful servants to trust with more. There is much that the Lord is putting on the hearts of BJ and I and other people in the church. There's a lot of stuff we believe the Lord is going to call us to do in the future. We want to build recovery houses to help people, men and women, build a life centered on Jesus. Not just get off drugs, but build a life, a life on Jesus.
We want to plant churches one day. We want to help families foster and adopt. We'd love to have a building where we can just meet whenever we want. And those things might seem like they're a million miles away and millions of dollars away, but they're not. Because I don't even believe the biggest obstacles are financial.
God is not short of cash. I think the Lord is in the process of sanctifying a group of believers here into trustworthy. Servants, disciples who are all in on obeying Jesus, are radically generous with what they have, be it a little or a lot or people of prayer, people of the word, people who love to verses one another in Jesus name. God is not asking us, any of us, to take the step that's 20 steps ahead. He's not saying, Well, I want you to figure out how you're going to pay for that.
He's not asking us. He's asking us to take the step that is right in front of us, all of us. And so if your next step is starting to give in a way that honors God, do it. Do it and watch what the Lord does.