Summary: To answer the age-old question of how much I should give, we need to look at the 4 principles for giving that are laid out in this passage.
A young pastor was absorbed in trying to generate more money for a new building project. He had scheduled his passionate appeal for the Sunday morning service because he knew that the most people would be in attendance. He had planned to have the musician play an appropriate song to be played at the end of his appeal, however he forgot to do that. He tried desperately to come up one at the last minute, but could not. In frustration he told her, "Just play whatever you think is appropriate."
During the message he emphasized the importance of giving faithfully to the Lord and the need for this building project. Then at the end of his message he told them, "If you are willing to shoulder greater financial responsibility by pledging at least $100 over your monthly giving, please stand as Mrs. Jones plays." He then nodded for her to begin, and to his delight the appropriate song that she had chosen was "The Star Spangled Banner."
Ok, go ahead and break out the rotten tomatoes because, yes, the preacher is going to be talking about the unspeakable subject, and that is giving. Now, before I begin let me throw out my usual disclaimer on this subject, and that is that I am not directing this to anyone in particular. I do not know, nor do I want to know how much money you give. It’s not the preacher’s business to know that. I’ve heard of preachers that want to know what every member gives, and they are nuts. It would probably lead to favoritism and judging, and neither one is healthy for the church.
But this is a subject that is important to the life of God’s people and the reason that I know that is because money is one of the most frequently discussed topics in the Bible. As I’ve said several times, God knows that money is the main competitor that He has for our hearts and minds. The love of money and the things that it can buy will probably divert our attention from God and His work more than anything else.
My main purpose for bringing this message is to you is not to curse you, but to bless you. A proper attitude about giving of ourselves and our money is one of the greatest blessings that we can enjoy as Christians, so please try to look on this as a positive thing because that’s the spirit that it’s given in.
But, having said that, I feel like we need to look at some giving facts that I got while researching for this lesson. Again, general facts, not facts about you or this church. But, among the 29 Protestant denominations that report annual financial information to the National Council of Churches, per-member giving as a percentage of income, decreased from 3.1 percent in 1968 to 2.6 percent in 1997. Measured as a percentage of disposable income, both mainline Protestants and evangelicals gave less in 1998 than they did in 1968.
The picture was even grimmer for 10 mainline Protestant denominations and the Southern Baptist Convention, which were examined in more detail. Their percentage of giving in 1998 was lower than it had been even in 1933 during the darkest days of the Depression. And, of course one of the 10 denominations was the United Methodist Church.
One of the reasons that church giving has decreased, especially in America, is that God’s people are choosing to do other things with their money. One author wrote, "Americans live a fantasy of enjoying great wealth while denying the reality. Consumer debt is a choice, similar to investments. Having money tied up in credit cards, or in the stock market, does not change the fact that a person has resources; these commitments only describe how that person has chosen to spend them." If we’ll be honest with ourselves, most of us will have to admit that it isn’t that we don’t have money to give, but that we choose to put that money other places.
So, the questions that we will try to answer this morning are: 1) How much should we give? And 2) what should our motive be for giving? Trust me, that’ll be ambitions enough for today.
Now, before we get into this we need to try and clear up one issue concerning giving, and that is the issue of tithing. And I say, "clear up" kind of loosely here, because I’m not going to give you a "yes/no" answer to this age-old question. As we all know, tithing was compulsory under the Old Testament Law. Old Testament Jews were required to give God one tenth of all their increase, which included a lot more than just money, by the way. It included things like cattle and crops, etc. So it’s difficult for us to be really literal about the subject. To tithe like the Old Testament believers did would require us to give more than just ten percent of our money. So be very careful about trying to be too literal about this subject.