Sermons

Summary: Exploring the grace of giving through a study of stewardship.

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“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.” [1]

Giving is a grace—if we are on the receiving end of the giving; but, what about those who give? Do they recognise grace in their giving? The manner in which the offering is received leads me to believe that much of the giving in churches is grudging and that worshippers resent the sense of duty imposed upon them. Certainly, the world has made a caricature of preachers asking for money; and without question too many preachers appear motivated by the love of money. Nevertheless, for all the flaws inherent in the act of giving, the Bible clearly states that giving is a grace. The message today focuses attention on this grace of giving so that we may each participate in this act of worship in a manner pleasing to God.

The message requires digression allowing exploration of areas to be covered in future studies. I seek to free you from compulsion in giving; giving is not mandated under the tenets of the New Testament, but it is encouraged. Under the law the tithe was mandated of worshippers. Moreover, the tithe was not ten percent of earned income as some have erroneously taught; tithing as required under the law was between twenty-two and twenty-three percent. There was a first tithe required of worshippers which was designated for support of the priests and Levites. In DEUTERONOMY 12:8-19 we read of a second tithe which was given by the worshippers as duty; this was given to support a national festival for the benefit of the whole community. In DEUTERONOMY 14:28, 29 we read of a third tithe required every third year and designated as support for the poor of the land. These three tithes were effectively divine taxation for support of the priests, the worshipping community and the needy among the people; the tithes provided for government, community service and welfare. Underscore in your mind these were not giving to God—the tithes were not offerings; these tithes were required of every Jew to provide both divine and civil services. If you insist on tithing, please ensure that you are giving at least twenty-three percent of your income, thus mandating what is prescribed under the Law.

Jews were not finished with giving when they had given their tithes. God set up a sort of divine profit sharing plan in LEVITICUS 19:9, 10 as He made yearly provision for the needy within the nation. Later, Nehemiah instituted a Temple tax to purchase needed supplies for temple worship [NEHEMIAH 10:32, 33], and Moses instituted a scheme in which the people forfeited a year’s income every seventh year as they gave the land a rest. Conservatively speaking, under the law, which is where you place yourself if you choose to tithe, a minimum of twenty-five percent of your income is required, not as an act of studied choice, but as divine requirement.


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