Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
Let me start this morning with a story about twin cows.
One day, there was a farmer who went into his house to tell his wife and family some good news. “The cow just gave birth to twin calves, one red and one white,” he said.
He continued, “We must dedicate one of these calves to the Lord. We will bring them up together, and when the time comes, we will sell one and keep the proceeds and we will sell the other and give the proceeds to the Lord’s work.”
His wife asked him which one he was going to dedicate to the Lord. “There’s no need to bother about that now,” he replied, “we’ll treat them both in the same way, and when the time comes, we’ll do as I say.”
A few days later, he entered the kitchen looking devastated. “What happened?” his wife asked. “I have bad news,” he replied. “The Lord’s calf is dead.” “Wait,” said his wife, “you didn’t decide which calf was to be the Lord’s.” “Yes,” he said, “I decided it was the white one, and the white one died. The Lord’s calf is dead.”
We are finishing our DOUBLE TRAP series this morning with a message on Giving.
Something, like the farmer, that most of us usually have the intentions to do…We want to…but we’re caught in a Double Trap.
1) We’re struggling with money. It’s tight.
2) We don’t ever talk about our money.
So we never get advice on it.
And we get nervous when people talk about it (like say, Pastors), and thus we never make strides on it.
This is our first-ever series on money in 2.5 years, as I’ve mentioned many times, I’ve felt myself caught in the trap of being afraid to talk about it.
But yet, here we are.
I do want to say this is another preface though:
A wise pastor once told me: If you’re ever going to talk about money in church, do it when things are going well.
And I do want you to do know that things financially at Renovation Church are fine.
We’re not falling apart or going bankrupt, and we don’t need your money for some building campaign or roof project.
We just feel like this is a topic from Scripture that God led us to teach about this summer. Simple as that.
No hidden agenda.
We’ve already talked about a number of things in this series: The state of American’s personal finances, savings, debt, the prosperity gospel, the danger of riches, and on and on…
And today…we’re going to talk about what Christians usually think of when they think of a series on money: Giving. Stewardship. Generosity.
What does the Bible say about those things? Since we’re not in the middle of some building campaign or paying off some church mortgage, let’s try and take an unbiased look at what Scripture says.
Although the word “Stewardship” is never used in the Bible, it’s one of the best ways to describe what the Bible says about this topic (by the way, don’t fret on that…the word “Trinity” isn’t in the Bible either…doesn’t mean it’s not described)
Stewardship is this concept that everything we have is from God. Everything.
And you are just a STEWARD of those resources.
You’re just leasing it from Him. You don’t own it.
It’s like, you’re the landlord, but not the owner.
We just are temporarily managing God’s stuff (kids, gifts, talents, money, you name it)
The Bible is clear on this concept:
(James 1:17) – NIV
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Or when King David and his leaders were raising money for the first temple, he said this:
(1 Chronicles 29:14) – NIV
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.
But maybe you’re like…God’s?!? How is MY money…that I worked for…in MY Bank Account, God’s?!?
Well, it was somebody’s before you, and it will be somebody’s after you, and it ALWAYS has been God’s.
But maybe you’re like, but I worked for it. Worked hard for it. Worked the extra hours for it. Trained for it. Went to school for it.
But through all of that, it was God that kept you healthy. Kept you from that car accident that kept you walking. Kept you from that disease that kept you alive. Or kept the money in your Bank Account instead of the Insurance Company’s.
It’s His. And everything we have is just a merciful blessing.
And let me tell you something. Your ability to give it away…to be generous…to give back to God, is somewhat dependent on your ability to see your money as God’s and not yours.
What if I handed you $20 on the way out of church today and told you to give it away and serve someone?
DO you think you could do it?
Most of you could. “Meh, it’s not my money. I could do it.”
A few of you would just pocket it. “Stupid pastor. Ha”
But most could give it away. It’s not yours!
It’s the same principle with God. If you’re overly convinced the money you have is all yours, it’ll be harder to be cheerful about giving it away
BUT IT’LL DRAIN US!
Not too long ago, I read a really interesting story about a missionary named Eunice Pike that I think will be helpful for our discussion here.
Eunice worked with the Mazatec Indians in Southwestern Mexico. During her time there, she learned some interesting things about them.
They never would wish each other well.
They wouldn’t share the gospel with each other (even though they were overjoyed to hear it)
If they figured something out, they often wouldn’t teach another
She eventually discovered that they believed there was a limited amount of “good” out there. That there was only so much good, knowledge, and love to go around.
And if you shared that with another person, you might drain yourself of that knowledge (which is why they wouldn’t share the gospel)
To have a second child to them, meant they would have to love the 1st one less.
To tell someone “have a good day” meant that you have just given away some of your own happiness, which you now can’t get back.
I know we’re supposed to be culturally sensitive, but most of us hear that and we think, “What we’re they thinking?!?”
And oddly enough, our logic on giving to God is eerily similar.
We feel like, if we are to give away…then we are losing it. We are giving it away… and we…will have less.
That’s exactly what we think. It’s the same thing.
But maybe you’re thinking…but David…when it comes to giving…finances…this is logical! It’s not “well-wishing,” it’s a concrete/finite thing.
If I have $30, and I gave $5 away, I HAVE LESS!
But when it’s come to giving…to generosity…God calls us to a “Reverse Logic.”
That when we give back to HIM…or to those in Need…that we’re not actually losing anything.
Because the Kingdom of God is growing and expanding…how can we be losing?
Maybe we only think we’re losing because we think OUR bank account is the only thing worth counting???
2 Corinthians 9 tells us be a “cheerful giver” and God will take care of us.
As we said last week, because this message is just a culmination of everything we’ve talked about, that doesn’t necessarily mean financial
But the “Reverse Logic” is True.
We all tell kids at Christmastime, Jesus says, “It’s better to give than to receive” but most of us don’t believe it.
It’s reverse logic in a money-driven society.
But what if Jesus is right?! And it’s true??
WE GIVE LEFTOVERS
We mentioned this in the first week, but the logic of giving feels SO reversed to our American culture that most of us have never tested God out on this.
The average Christian gives somewhere between 2-3% back to God.
So we have no idea if it’s even true or not.
And part of problem is the manner OR order in which we give.
The other day, I heard a pastor describe how He taught his children to handle money…and I thought it was brilliant.
Starting when they were young, he gave them 3 envelopes.
One for Short-Term money, one for long-term money, and one for God.
And taught them how to save…how to spend…and how to put aside money for God
(1 Corinthians 16:2) – NIV
On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
But one of the reasons I think so many of us struggle with giving back to God, even though it’s all over Scripture, is because we’ve never “set aside” anything.
This is a harsh word, but we give “LEFTOVERS”
It’s been said that “Leftovers are the things we would never serve to a guest, but we so often serve to the Lord”
We offer Him our leftover minutes, and leftover cash
“But not only does He own in the first place what He asks us to give back, He’s worthy of so much more!
But HOW much more?
That’s sort of a funny question in and of itself
Just think of it. “Yeah, but How much is God worth?” “HOW much do I have to give back?”
What’s the Bible asking of me?
There are two main schools of thought on this in Evangelical Christianity.
1 – The Bible is really clear on the tithing (10%). It’s everywhere in the OT, and even though it’s not reaffirmed in the NT, that doesn’t’ mean anything. The OT is still our Bible. All Christians should give 10%
2 – The NT does not reaffirm tithing, but talks about being a cheerful giver. Christians should give, but the percentage doesn’t matter. Just give from your heart.
If you’ve been around here for a while, this probably shouldn’t shock you, but I think the Biblical answer is actually somewhere in the middle of those two. J
First of all, what does the Bible actually say about it??? Well, there are a lot of passages, mainly in the Old Testament about TITHING…which is giving 10 percent.
Abraham and Jacob give 10% of what they have to a priest / to God
In 2 Chron 31, Hezekiah reinstitutes the tithe
Commanded to tithe in Leviticus 27:30
And it was just a basic principle of the Israelites.
What people often don’t know is that not only did the Israelites give 10% to their priests (…like giving to the church), they gave 10% to the annual Festivals and Feasts, and 3.3% to the poor.
There were also sometimes additional tithes for the temple, and the poor.
The average follower of God in the OT gave around 25% of their income!
But even though the OT speaks of tithing quite often, it’s not really mentioned in the NT expect for in MT 23 when Jesus was getting mad at the Pharisees & tells them that they shouldn’t neglect tithing, but they can’t just tithe and then not show mercy
So what do we do? How much should we give??
Let me punch both sides of the argument before we land in the middle. J
I think when we get overly obsessed with the 10%, we miss it. People hit the mark, and go, “Well, I did that. God has my finances.”
And we miss it. We’re not praying about it, thinking about it, and oddly enough, potentially not even living generously.
And as Mother Theresa once said, “If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving”
And I don’t think God’s desire was for us all to just hit some legalistic number.
This isn’t how the heart of God operates.
Let me put it this way: Do we do this with other things?
Like, do we say, “Well, as long as you’re 85% faithful to your spouse, God’s okay with that.”
Or “God would like you to come to church 70% of all Sundays.”
Or “God would like you to read the Bible at least 4:10 each day”
NO! We don’t do that because that misses the point!
Now, would God like you to read the Bible at least 4:10 minutes a day? Indeed!
But, He wants your heart!!!
That why he says so often in the OT, I desire MERCY, not just your sacrifices!
He wants your heart! He wants a CHEERFUL giver.
And when we get so focused on a number, we often end up in the trap of saying 10% for you…now the rest is MINE!! ALL MINE!!
Which doesn’t jive with what we said at the beginning. It’s all God’s!
And because of these principles, and because we’re not under the Israelite civil laws of the OT, a lot of people, say, forget the number, it’s about the HEART!
But let’s not forget as Jer 17 says, “the heart is deceitful above all things
And I think we just like that answer too much (just give from your heart). It’s too convenient for us.
And I think it’s part of why the Average Christian just gives 2-3 percent.
Listen, your heart is important. But our hearts aren’t always to be trusted, and they’re not always in the right place. We’ve got to get them in the right place!
(Matthew 6:21 - NIV))
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
If your treasure is your stuff, you aren’t going to be able to give out of your heart to God
But when our hearts are enflamed with passion and gratitude for what Jesus did for us…and wants to do for others…we stop asking questions like: “How much do I owe ya?” And start asking questions like: “What can I do for you?”
John Piper, once famously showed us that, yeah, we can’t be numbers obsessed, but don’t think that gets off the hook to then go lower…
“I think God took the focus OFF giving a tithe in the early church because He wants his people to ask themselves a new question. The question that Jesus drives us to ask again and again is not, "How much should I give?" but rather, "How much dare I keep?"
Remember, this is a Gospel where Jesus says things like:
“He who has 2 coats, let him share with those who have none.” Or to the rich young ruler, Jesus says, If you would be perfect, go and sell what you possess and give to the poor, then come follow me.” OR, in Acts, we see the believers having things in common and completely supporting one another, we see people selling all of their land to support the movement of the church
And this is what brings me back to the middle.
I think, because the OT is not irrelevant, and is still our Bible, and we see not just the CIVIL function or giving, but the MORAL ATTITUDE of generosity in the OT…they were giving 25% for goodness sakes!
And we have to land in the middle, because it’s not working when we get overly focused on a number (that’s not God’s heart) and it’s not working when we just trust our own hearts (the Avg. American barely gives anything back to God)
Here’s what I think the NT is trying to tell us.
It’s always trying (in many areas… even in finances) to get us away from being legalistic about things, and I think that’s why you don’t see the number stressed over and over in the NT
But there is an example set for us in the Bible on how much to give (10%), and if you’re looking for a standard, it’s still the one. Or if anything, the NT (and I think this is where ppl mess it up), puts it higher.
But it’s absolutely about your heart. Your heart has to be right.
If you can’t write a cheerful check, don’t put it in the offering
But let God get a hold of your heart about this. That you can be a part of Changing the World through the money He lent to you.
My guess is, based on the personal finances stats we talked about 2 weeks ago, that is this is really hard to hear for a lot of you.
It’s hard for me to say.
And that’s the Double Trap we’ve gotten ourselves trapped in
But be encouraged in this. My encouragement to you is just start making strives forward in orienting your life around God…
We gotta get over the duplicity of, “God I give you my LIFE. But not my bank account, that’s just for me!”
If you’re giving 1%, try 3%. If it’s 5%, try 7%. And next year 10%. Make strides forward in this.
If you need help w/ your finances, we can help you w/ this. We’ve got classes and people we send you to for help.
“And I challenge you to this, as I said earlier not because WE need your money for some campaign we’re doing. No, I challenge you to this because God wants your LIFE
And I also challenge you to this, as we said last week, not because you’ll somehow get RICHER doing this OR you’ll get some boat out of it…
No I challenge you to this…because IT’s WHAT God calls us to AND this is where you’re going to see LIFE!
Our things…the STUFF we normally spend our money on…what does that get us? A quick, temporary, cheap thrill maybe that leaves us unsatisfied in under a week…
But God call us you to invest, to give to changing lives. For the Kingdom. For eternity. And when you get to be a part of that…man, it’s amazing!
To financially be a part of reaching people for Christ, planting new churches, and helping the needy around the world is more of a blessing ANYDAY than the temporarily high of the possessions of this world.
If I can, I want to take the last part of my message by talking about one particular way I can literally PROVE to you that living in this sort of REVERSE LOGIC lifestyle…living in generosity…is exactly what God called you to. AND, IT is where you will actually find LIFE!
Last January, 17 people went on our first-ever missions trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
And we want you to be a part of it with us this year.
Your giving, and last year we even did an above and beyond special offering for Haiti, but even your normal giving is what helps us reach people for Christ and serve the poor in Haiti.
5% of all of our offerings goes to Worldwide missions.
Our Haiti Trip is going to be January 2nd – 9th this year, and I think you should come with us.
Here’s what we’re going to be doing: We work with an amazing organization called World Wide Village who will be doing some advance work for us this year.
They will be going out into the exact same neighborhood we went to last year and figuring out what some of the needs of the community are:
Are there people who need serious repairs on their house? (a roof, a wall, etc.)
Are there people in need of food? In need of clothing?
And then, once on the ground, we are going to be meeting the needs of the community.
We will also be working from the home-base of our Children’s Home / Orphanage that we went to last year.
So we will be helping them with a project and just loving the kids there.
Then, our goal is to serve and love the community, and at the end of the week, invite them in to hear some music, testimonies, and share with them who Jesus is and how He loves them…just as we have served them.
It’s going to be an amazing trip serving a people who are in incredible need.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has an unemployment rate of 80%, and only 10% of the people know Jesus. Incredible need.
Let me help you picture this even better. Here’s a 3 minute promo video, with some footage of last year’s trip, that’ll show you some of the things you could be doing:
(PLAY HAITI PROMO VIDEO)
Don’t let anything stop you from going on this trip.
There is seriously something for everyone on this trip:
If you’re just good with a hammer, we can totally use you
If you’re just good with playing with kids, you are a huge asset
If you’re pumped to come grow in evangelism, hand out Bibles, spread the word, this is the trip for you.
It’s honestly, one of the most well-rounded trips I’ve ever been a part of
We serve orphans, help the poor and needy, and share the Gospel
It’s amazing. It’s what missions should be.
It is one of the most powerful things you will ever be a part of, and I want you to be a part of it with us.
The base cost for the Trip is $1,050 without airfare. Airfare, as you might suspect, fluctuates a lot, but is probably gonna be somewhere around 800-1000.
However, if you sign-up, Renovation Church will automatically pay $200 for you.
So the trip is 850 plus airfare.
And honestly, $1,700 is an insanely cheap price for an INTERNATIONAL missions trip.
But don’t let the money get in the way of you going to experience change and change the world.
It can be raised. Last year, 35% of the people who went, went for FREE! And a many others only paid a few 100 dollars because they raised the rest through support letters, etc.
Don’t let money get in the way.
And honestly, even if you did have to pay some, it goes back to what we talked about today. Think about what you’re giving to….
(half the price of the trip goes right into serving the people of our neighborhood).
This is a way to finally invest in the kingdom of God and not just ourselves.
So, if you are even 10% interested, I want you to pick up an application/informational packet in the hallway today on your way out.
And if you have questions, anything at all, don’t hesitate to ask
And even if you don’t go, know this:
We will do this TOGETHER!
Some of us will go, but all of us will participate.
Because your giving, which is just as important, is what helps others go, it’s what feeds a hungry child, or keeps them safe from malaria, or gets a Bible into the hands of someone for the very first time.
We will do this together, because we are going to live, not just for ourselves, not just for our own needs, but for the Kingdom of God.
May God do great things!!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.