So here we are, week three of Money Month 2013. You having fun yet? For those who are visiting with us or new to Cornerstone this is an annual event. Each April I take the opportunity to teach the theology of stewardship, which is a fancy way of saying we look at what the Bible says about money, what got, how we get it and what we do with it after we get it. Nice thing is that means I won’t ambush you about money throughout the year.
And we culminate Money Month with an event we call Step Up Cornerstone which is next week. And we will be talking more about that later in the service.
This year our theme is “The Blessed Life” and we’ve been looking at the blessings that God has for his people. Week one we looked at the premise that God wants to bless his people. It is there in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, it is there in the last chapter of the last book of the bible and it is there throughout the Bible. God is not a vengeful God who wants us to suffer, God is a loving God who wants to bless his children. And it would appear from the word of God that some of those blessings are financial. This is not the prosperity Gospel, let’s get that straight, if you’ve been coming to Cornerstone for any length of time then you know I do not preach or condone a name it and claim it theology.
But there is a reality to the fact that God wants to bless his children. For years my objection to this was “What about Christians in developing countries? They aren’t rich?” And then I travelled to developing countries, and no Christ Followers in those countries aren’t rich, but they are blessed. And even within their context they are blessed financially.
But the blessed life is not about a blessed chequebook, it is about a blessed life. You don’t give to get, you give to give. As a by-product of that God blesses those who give to his work. But that can’t be the motive and motives count. Jesus’ brother James wrote in James 4:3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. And Denn may never know your motives but God certainly does.
Last week we looked at the blessing of First Things and how the giving of the First Born was done to Remember. To remember that we weren’t always free, that were slaves who had been delivered. The giving of the First Fruit was done to recognize that all we have comes from God. And the brining of the First Tithe was done in obedience to the commands of God.
So let’s jump into our scripture which is the “go to” scriptures for preachers and tithing.
Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!
There are times that I think “God why did you have to put this scripture where you put it? Just another page, just another 13 verses and it would have been in the New Testament and I wouldn’t have had to listen to people say ‘but that’s in the Old Testament that doesn’t count’”
And then I realize that I’m not God and he put it exactly where it belongs. So what about the argument that it’s in the Old Testament and it doesn’t count, or the “I’m not under the law I’m under grace” statement?
Let’s go back to an illustration that I used last week. Say Jason asked to borrow my Smart Car on a beautiful day so he and Marla could put the top down and go to Peggy’s Cove for a picnic, and I agreed. The purpose of the story last week was to illustrate that we are told to bring our tithe not give our tithe, because you can’t give someone something that already belongs to them. And so at the end of the day if Jason came back and said “Denn, Marla and I like you a lot and we’d like to bless you by giving you this car.” I’d have to say “you’re not giving it to me, you are simply bringing it back, it already belongs to me.”
Let’s take it to the next step, at the end of the day Jason says “Denn, we really like your car so we are going to keep it.” And I say “you can’t keep my car, that would be stealing.” To which he might say “But ‘thou shalt not steal’ is an Old Testament thing and I’m under grace not under the law”
You see where I am going here? And what recourse would I have? I mean other than say choking the life out of him and taking my keys back because the entire “Thou shalt not kill” is an Old Testament thing and I’m not under the law I’m under grace.
What people fail to recognize with this argument is that grace always goes further than the law. It’s throughout the Gospels. The law says don’t murder, grace says don’t hate. The law says don’t commit adultery, grace says don’t lust. The law says love your neighbor, grace says love your enemy. So why would Jesus change that with tithing? He wouldn’t and he didn’t. In Luke chapter 11 Jesus confronts the Pharisees about the hypocrisy and he tells them: Luke 11:42 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. They were tithing the smallest of things in their lives, they were tithing their winning Roll Up the Rim Cups, but they weren’t nice people. But Jesus doesn’t tell them they should stop tithing. Let’s keep reading, You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.
So with that out of the way, let’s go back to where we started from Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!
In particular I want to look at the portion that says “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! This is the word of God, speaking to God’s people and it says that God will pour His blessings on His people. And not just any blessing, this passage says He will pour out a blessing so great that we won’t be able to take it in. Would you like to be blessed? Would you like your life to be characterized as being blessed of God? Sure you would, so here’s the secret.
It begins with one very small very important word, just two letters and yet this entire promise hinges on that word. And the word is “if”. God is waiting and willing to bless His people, but, there’s another small yet important word, the choice is always up to us if we want to be blessed. In this case the word of God says “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” What will happen? God will open the windows of heaven.
So the first question is Why will God bless You? The short and simple answer here is that God promised to bless the Israelites if they paid their tithe. So what is the tithe? Tithe simply means tenth and throughout the word of God the concept is reiterated that all that we have comes from God but he requires a tenth of it back. For the people of God this does not mean that we give God ten percent of what is ours, it means that He allows us to keep ninety percent of what is His. And in this case God tells his people, “If you tithe, if you return to me ten percent of what I have given to you then I will bless you” You see when we give to God, we are just taking our hands off what already belongs to Him.
And that is the short answer, and if that was the entire answer then we’d be finished. We could sing a song to close and we could go home but you would have received only a portion of what you need in order to achieve God’s blessings today.
Here then is the long answer the answer that is contained in the short answer.
You Will Be Blessed If You Are Obedient. The fact that the Israelites had not been paying their tithe was only evidence of a much great problem and that was their obedience or their disobedience in this case. The concept of the tithe goes back to Genesis, the first book in the Bible, when Abraham gave King Melchizedek, who was also a priest, ten percent of his belongings as an act of worship to God.
The commandment to God’s people to return ten percent of what God had given them is first recorded in Leviticus 27:30 “One tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy.” It is also mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:22 “You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. Throughout the Old Testament we see God’s people responding to the command of the Tithe, when they were living in obedience to God’s will and commandments. However when they were living in disobedience it is often evidenced by the fact that they are not giving to God’s work.
In fact God often uses our giving as a spiritual barometer, because if we are finding it difficult to give something as paltry as money how much more difficult will it be to give important things like our time, our will and our future?
So when we are obedient to God then he blesses us. Now some of you might be thinking “That’s blackmail or bribery.” No, that is reality. When our children are disobedient do we rush out immediately to buy them a gift or take them to a special restaurant? “I am so glad that you wrote on the living room wall with crayons and didn’t do your homework, let me buy you something special.” No, that happens when they do what we want them to do.
Tithing is only a small part of who and what we are as Christians, but is a part it can’t be ignored. But neither can it be a bribe to excuse our disobedience in other areas. If people could just pay their tithe and then do whatever they liked with immunity the church wouldn’t be able to spend the money they had.
God is still looking for our obedience to His word and He will bless us when we obey Him.
Jesus tells us that unless we obey him we don’t really love him John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. When we were children and we disobeyed our parents we felt guilty, and that wasn’t a fun feeling was it? As believers when we do what we shouldn’t do or we when we don’t do what we should we feel guilty as well, sometimes we call that conviction and that isn’t a great feeling is it? By the way, when we stop feeling guilty about our disobedience it’s not that the action has become all right it’s that our hearts have become hardened.
You Will Be Blessed If You Are Faithful. This goes back to the concept of all we have as coming from God, he has entrusted us with our material possessions to make an impact on this world. And we can choose to do that or choose not to do that and that is entirely up to us. But if we choose to spend what was meant for the sacred on the secular then God is not going to bless us. The concept is laid out in Luke 16:10 When Jesus said “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.
The New International Version says it this way Luke 16:10 Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with very much.
If we go back into the Old Testament we discover that when Israel was faithful to God, then God blessed them. When he could trust them with what they had then he was willing to trust them with even more, and the converse was also true. When God’s people could not be trusted then the blessings of God were removed.
If your boss can’t trust you do you think you will be promoted? If you’re spouse can’t trust you to be faithful with your love and your emotions do you think the relationship will grow. I truly believe that God blesses us based on our past performance with his blessings. When we aren’t faithful, when we can’t be trusted how do we feel? Not good huh?
You Will Be Blessed If You Are Honest. When you take something that doesn’t belong to you but belongs to somebody else it is called stealing. When you take what doesn’t belong to you but belongs to God it’s still called stealing. If we look back into the book of Malachi this is what God says Malachi 3:8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.” In other words you cheat God when you keep what is his.
So it’s not just a matter of obedience and faithfulness it is a matter of honesty. Many people who would never take a penny that belonged to somebody else have no problem taking and keeping what rightfully belongs to God.
But honesty doesn’t just have to do with money. We can steal the affections of someone who isn’t our spouse, that’s called adultery, we can steal somebody’s good name that’s called slander, we can steal the honour that is due God and that is called idolatry. To take something that doesn’t belong to us is a sin, by whatever name you call it. And God will not bless us in our sin.
So if those are some of the reasons for God to bless you the next question has to be: How will God bless you?
Let’s start with the least important blessing, You Will be Blessed Monetarily Throughout the scriptures this concept has been taught, if you are faithful to God with your finances then God will reward you. The word “give” is used over 1100 times in the Bible and we see this concept taught, again and again. Listen to Ecclesiastes 11:1 Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later. Or Proverbs 11:24 Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. You understand the concept, that if God provides for his work and his Kingdom through his people then it is in the best interest of His work and his Kingdom for those who are faithful to prosper.
If I was going away for a while and told some of my staff “Each month I’m going to send you $10,000.00 (remember this is only an illustration) and you can use that however you want but you need to give $1,000.00 a month to Angela. It would seem like a pretty good deal right? And say after four months Angela and I were talking and I asked her how she was doing financially and she said “you know staff person “A” send me a thousand dollars a month, every month I can expect it on the first day. Staff person “B” has been sending me $2,000.00 a month, don’t know why, I was only expecting $1,000.00 but it is a blessing. That’s cool, so I ask, “What about staff person “C”?” “Well” she says “the first month I got $1000.00 the second month I got $700.00 and then $400.00 this month nothing.”
What do you think I’m going to do? I’m going to stop sending money to Staff person C and start sending it to Staff person B.
Which is why Jesus tells us in Luke 19:26 “and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”
The bible tells us that the church is the bride of Christ and he provides for us so we can provide for his bride.
R.G. LeTourneau was an American Inventor and committed Christian. What did he invent? Heavy earth moving equipment, much of what they use in excavation and road work today was originally the brain child of Robert LeTourneau. And he became very wealthy doing what he did, and as his income grew so did his giving but he wasn’t content with simply giving a tithe and by the end of his life he was giving back ninety percent and living on the other ten percent. And this is what R.G. LeTourneau said “I shovel money out, and God shovels it back ... but God has a bigger shovel”
Most of us have either read the book, seen the movie, watched the play or at least heard of The Diary of Anne Frank, and Anne Frank said “No one has ever become poor by giving.”
Came across a book entitled “The 10 Secrets Revenue Canada Doesn’t Want You to Know” written by David M. Voth. This is from chapter 6: Charitable Giving. “Ask people who tithe faithfully and they will tell you of the ten, hundred and thousand times returns they have received by giving. Universally, tithers will also tell you that if you tithe you’ll live better on the 90% than you ever did before on the 100%. The prosperity benefits of tithing are so significant that it would be worth it even if it came without any tax benefits. However, there are also tax benefits to tithing.”
I came across a neat saying that kind of sums up this point, You should give according to your income, lest God make your income according to your giving. So here’s a question, could you live on 10 times what you give to the church each week?
But the momentary blessings are the least important. You Will be Blessed Emotionally When we aren’t doing what we are supposed to be doing we feel guilty or under conviction. And I know some of you think that I’m the one that tries to make you feel guilty. Not so, I simply present the word of God, if you are feeling guilty that’s your doing not mine. If I did a poll right now, some of you would feel guilty and wish I would change my sermon right now to something pointed like Apple Pie, Motherhood and Lower Taxes while others wouldn’t be feeling the least bit convicted.
If I were to preach on adultery or lust who would feel guilty? If I was to preach on lying or stealing who would feel guilty? If I was to preach on unforgiveness who would feel guilty? And guilt will tie you up in emotional knots. Ask the person who is having an affair how they feel around their spouse, as the person who is stealing from the company how they feel around their boss, ask the person who cheats on their income tax how they feel when a letter arrives from the tax department.
And so the blessing of Obedience is emotional freedom, a clear conscience makes a soft pillow. Listen to God’s word in Romans 4:7 “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.
Have felt the Joy of knowing that your sins are forgiven? Which lead us to the last point You Will be Blessed Spiritually. When we are disobedient to God, in whatever area of our lives it puts up a road block between us and Him. You see disobedience is simply a big word that describes a little word and that word is sin. The bible, the word of God says in James 4:17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
But when you are walking as you are supposed to be walking, talking as you are supposed to be talking and doing as you are supposed to be doing then you are in fellowship with God, the doors of communication are open and you are right where you are supposed to be with your God and creator. Is that where you are this morning? If not then it can be. The blessing that God has in store for his believers are for those who are obedient in all areas of their lives. For those who are walking in the light that he has given them. If you are not a believer then those blessings aren’t even on the menu yet but they can be, and in either case the choice is yours, do you obey or do you disobey?
The promise that is here for you is found in the last part of Malachi 3:10 . . .Try it! Put me to the test! Do you want to be blessed, then try it and let Him prove it to you.