Our current sermon series at church is “Living to Make Jesus Famous.” I can’t speak for everyone else…but God has been doing a work in me. I have been reminded repeatedly about my purpose in life – to magnify God in Christ Jesus!
We have looked at the deeper theological truths of Scripture and now we are addressing the very practical implications of what it means to glorify God. So far we have discovered that we make Christ famous when: (1) we offer unilateral praise to Him for the accomplishment of our salvation, (2) we represent in good works the skilled craftsmanship of Christ as we are made new, and (3) when we bring the witness of Christ to our friends, families and communities. This Sunday we are going to discover how to make Jesus famous in the nations, no matter the location of our dwelling.
In the process of preparing for this week’s sermon, I came across an uncomfortable truth – to make Jesus famous, I MUST be a sacrificial giver of my monies in the local church.
Let me start again…I’m not uncomfortable with this truth. Christ has graciously moved my family over the years and I have seen His magnification in giving. But it is a really uncomfortable truth for many. Mankind likes to hold on to our money. We have every tendency to be selfish…to be clear we would prefer not to use these terms. We prefer to think: (1) we don’t have it to give, (2) the church has enough givers, (3) I’ll give when I have more, and (4) the giving of tithes and offerings are an Old Testament requirement…and really the list goes on.
I want to suggest in this post…and am up for your challenge…that NO MAN CAN MAKE JESUS FAMOUS IN HIS LIVING WITHOUT BEING A GIVER TO THE LOCAL CHURCH.
In order to prove this, let me begin with a question and answer – “Why must every believer participate in monetary giving to the local church?”
First, the believer gives because it is obedience to God. In the Old Testament, the reader is introduced to the principle of the “first fruits” from the very beginning. It is significant that the second recorded sin in all of Scripture (Genesis 4) is the failure to offer a proper sacrifice to God by Cain. Both he and his brother (Abel) brought sacrifices, but only one was accepted because it was the best stock of the first fruit. In Deuteronomy 12 and Leviticus 27, God gave the prescription for His people offering the tithes – the first fruits – of their labors. In Malachi 3:8, God is angry at the people for withholding their tithes…He accuses them of robbing Him. But you say, “This is all Old Testament?” Interesting our perspective. We have no issue with the rest of God’s law. We believe that His command not to murder, steal, covet, lie, etc…that all of these still have application. But we quickly throw away the law of the tithe? Further, what do we do with the words of Jesus? “I have not come to destroy the law…” (Matthew 5:17). Matthew 22:21 assumes there is an offering required of God, “Render unto God what is God’s.” In Luke 21, Jesus commends a widow for her gift to the local temple. Then there is the matter of the early church…there was Paul requesting support for the ministry and those in need in Jerusalem, the people of Acts giving their contributions to the Church so that the needs were met, and the admonition of 2 Corinthians 9:7. Paul writes, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Did you notice the third word in the ESV translation? “Each one MUST give…”
It is an uncomfortable truth for some, but…YOU CANNOT BE IN THE WILL OF GOD AND NOT BE A GIVER. Of course we could choose to shun all this…but then what do we do with the rich young ruler who was told to sell everything he had or the rich fool who was condemned for building bigger barns and trusting in his wealth? I don’t know about you, but it seems like we have to work awfully hard to ignore the two testament witness of the importance in giving!
Second, we give in response to what we have received. In 2 Corinthians 9:7 we are told to give out of what was decided in the heart…”for God loves a cheerful giver.” We receive grace and respond in our giving cheerfully and this God LOVES. In Matthew 10:8, Jesus disciples are told, “Freely you received…freely give.” I know you will say in the immediate context is that Jesus is talking about healing, casting out demons, loving the poor, etc. And you would be right! But what else had they received? What else do you and I receive? In Matthew 6, Jesus said that our Father in heaven assumed responsibility for our provision. If we have received our provision freely from the Father…are we not supposed to “freely receive…freely give?” Jesus’ ministry was taught in parables, the parables taught truths about the Kingdom of God. Would it surprise you to know that more than half of Jesus parable (which teach truths about the Kingdom of God) dealt with money? Was Jesus trying to imply something about the Kingdom of God and money? Then there is Matthew 23:23 where Jesus condemns the Pharisees for tithing and neglecting the weightier matters of the law, such as caring for the poor. All the non-tithers said, “AMEN!” Only one problem…after Jesus condemns them for not pursuing justice and faithfulness, he says, “these you should have done without forsaking the others.” Whoops! Apparently TITHING WAS A MATTER OF JUSTICE AND FAITHFULNESS.
Just for fun, lets go back to 2 Corinthians 9. In verse 5, Paul is speaking about the gift the Corinthians have been gathering. Listen to his words: “So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a WILLING GIFT, NOT AS AN EXACTION.” And Paul was not done, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart…And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (vs. 6-11).
Did you catch all of that???? First, we reap what we sow (abundance vs. sparingly). Second, giving graciously results in us “abounding in every good work” (it is impossible to do good works without giving generously). Third, righteousness is connected to generous giving (not salvation, but growth in righteousness). Fourth, we give out of God’s sowing and receive out of God’s increase. And fifth, we are “enriched…to be generous.”
Sounds like it is pretty important to God for us to give generously!
Third, we give TO MAKE JESUS FAMOUS. There is of course 2 Corinthians 9:11 again, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” In Philippians 4:14-20, Paul thanks the church for their giving. He thanks them for meeting his needs, for being the very first to support him in his ministry. He thanks them in chapter 1 for their partnership in the gospel. He closes this section by stating that God would supply for their every need as a result of their giving…followed by, “To our God be glory forever and ever. Amen.” God was glorified in their giving. Then in Matthew 26, Jesus compared a sinful woman’s sacrifice with the gospel…Indeed He said that the gospel would be proclaimed because of the woman’s sacrificial gift. In 1 Corinthians 16:3, God is glorified as a missions gift is taken to Jerusalem. In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul says that Titus is carrying an offering from the church as an “act of grace…for the glory of the Lord…” (vs. 19).
As Matt Chandler likes to say…”You trekking with me?!”
All of this leads us to the fourth reason for giving…I’m going to be very practical for a second. We give to meet the needs of the church, to advance the gospel in the nations, and to accomplish the ministry God has assigned. At our church, we give between 13-15% to missions to the nations annually. This does not include our support of ministries such as Celebrate Recovery and Recovery Prison Ministries. Then there are the every day ministries – children, youth, men, women, and couples. Test me on this…take another look at the budget. Roughly 31% of the budget goes directly to ministry and missions!
The single greatest concern of many is when salaries have overwhelmed the church budget. I am sensitive to this concern. But ask yourself a few questions…Who leads, administrates, and sees the completion of most of the ministry? Further, if you did not have a youth pastor, would you do as much youth ministry? If you have no children’s director/pastor, would you accomplish as much children’s ministry? Would your children be better served without a leader? Then there is the Scriptural instruction/law about what to use the tithes for – “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting,” (Numbers 18:21). The Levites were the administrators of the temple – what we would call, in general terms today, pastors. Don’t like the Old Testament? Try this one, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17).
A church staff are the gifts of God to a people to lead, cast vision, instruct, teach, grow, and help in the sanctification process. We should expect to give graciously to our staff…God honors that!
Then we get to the utilities, buildings, and office supplies…how much should be spent on these things? I think the answer varies from church to church. Unfortunately I don’t have a passage of scripture about the xerox copier. What I can tell you is that over the years we have committed to never allow these things to hinder our ministry. Right now, these costs are just over 20% of our overall budget. It is important to remember, however, even these things are an avenue God gives to accomplish the MINISTRY.
There are some who would try to convince you that financial giving is not important to the Christian walk…they do so contrary to Scripture. Jesus said, “where your treasurer is, there your heart will be also.” Your giving reflects your heart. If meeting the needs of the poor, taking the gospel to the nations, accomplishing the ministry of the saints, and providing for the staff God has given you is important…your bank account will reflect it.
If you skipped ahead…would you read this conclusion? Money is a difficult topic to discuss…I get it. But it doesn’t have to be. I don’t write any of this to discourage you…my purpose is to encourage you! I WANT YOU TO EXPERIENCE THE BLESSING OF GOD THROUGH GIVING…I WANT TO MAKE JESUS FAMOUS IN MY GIVING AND I WANT YOU TO JOIN WITH ME IN THAT.
Don’t grow weary in doing good…trust the Lord and magnify Christ – give to your local church! Don’t place the burden on a few…lock arms with your brothers and sisters in Christ, give together for the work of the gospel. Sacrifice in unity with your fellow redeemed and see if God would not expand your ministry, prepare you for more good works, meet the needs of your family, and magnify Himself!
Make Jesus famous in your giving this Sunday!