September is our annual Stewardship & Missions Emphasis month here at CCM. Now that we have examined in depth the very important pieces of our Christian life of God's Covenants, The Lordship or Jesus, The Authority of Scripture, and the Power of the Holy Spirit. We now move into understanding Stewardship from a biblical viewpoint. I am hopeful that as you allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your hearts in what Pastor Gerald has to share concerning this very important principle you will receive from the Lord His heart for you and your life.
Foundations Material - Stewardship - Pastor Gerald Martin
After accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, being baptized in the Holy Spirit and established in a Bible believing church, the most important commitment we make is probably in relation to our giving. I read somewhere that there are about 500 verses in the Bible on prayer and about 500 verses on faith but about 1000 verses that have to do with giving. That in itself would seem to indicate the importance of giving.
Much of Jesus’ teaching had to do with the handling of money. Perhaps the reason the bible has so much to say about this subject is that it reveals like nothing else, what or who really controls our life. Say what we will, the way we earn, save, spend, and give our money is often a pretty accurate indicator of our true priorities.So we believe it is important to know what the Bible teaches about the principle of giving.
Practicing the Principles
Biblical principles are for our blessing. I have come to believe the at the reason many believers live in spiritual defeat is not because they don’t love and serve Jesus but rather because they fail to embrace and put into practice the principles God has given us to guide our lives. Most often it is due to ignorance, not having been taught what the Bible says, or to having the principles taught as rules or commands, that if not obeyed, will jeopardize one’s salvation.
Our salvation is not based on observance of all the principles outlined in the Bible. We are saved by grace through faith. However, we can be assured that disregarding those principles opens us to reaping undesirable consequences. Living by the principles of God’s Word is a choice. When we make wrong choices, we set ourselves up to miss out on the blessing that God desires to release in our lives. The principle of giving is a case in point.
Many pastors are reluctant to speak about giving due to manipulative practices of unscrupulous radio or TV preachers making claims and promises that go beyond what the Bible says. However, there is a danger of reacting in fear and going to the other extreme and not teaching the principle at all. As a result, the church often lacks the necessary funds to carry out its God-given mission and the people miss out on the blessing of giving due to ignorance of what the Bible says about the principle of giving.
Early in the development of Cornerstone, we decided to be up front with people about this principle. At the risk of being misunderstood, and at the risk of making some people a little uncomfortable, we decided to teach the principle of giving without apology. Over the years we have included regular times of teaching and preaching on stewardship, challenging people to embrace the Biblical principle of giving.
The Bible speaks of three kinds of giving: tithes, offerings, & alms. Sometimes these words are used interchangeably and the distinct meaning of each is missed. I want to try to outline the difference. First let’s consider the tithe. What is a tithe? A simple definition is this: A tithe is ten percent of one’s income. Someone may say they tithe two percent but that’s not tithing. The word “tithe” means, “one tenth of”.
The first mention of the tithe is found in Genesis 14 where Abram paid a tithe to Melchizedek, the high priest of Salem. It is mentioned again in Genesis 28 where Jacob promised to give God a tenth of all he received. Both of these instances preceded the law that answers objection some people raise about tithing. They argue that since we are under grace rather than law, we are not required to tithe. While that may be tree, it doesn’t nullify the principle. Actually the tithe preceded the law and nowhere in the Bible is there any indication that it ended with the law.
The tithe is given to support the local ministry.In Malachi 3:10, the Bible says that we are to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. I believe the storehouse in the Old Testament is equivalent to our local church today. The tithe brought into the storehouse was used to fund the local ministry, take care of the needy, and support the Levites who served as the spiritual leaders among God’s people. Today we take this to mean everything that happens at the local level including the pastors’ support and various ministries for the extension of the Kingdom here on the home front. Therefore, we ask that people give their tithe to the general fund where they attend and receive ministry.
Offerings are different in that there is no set percentage. Offerings are given above and beyond the tithe as one is moved in his heart.Like tithes, the practice of giving offerings was established before the law was given, going back to Genesis 4 Where Cain and Abel gave offerings to God. Offerings were used to build the tabernacle and the temple. It is interesting to note that they didn’t use the tithe to build facilities. Instead they shared the need and challenged the people to give. There was no compulsion. It wasn’t a tax the people simply gave out of their own free will.
In the case of the tabernacle, the people gave so much Moses had to ask them to stop, because they had more than enough to complete the project. In general, we believe that buildings are to be funded through sacrificial offerings rather than through the tithes. We have funded a number of major building projects that way, where after a period of stewardship teaching, people are given an opportunity to make a pledge, indicating a sacrificial offering they are willing to give in a lump sum, or over a one, two, or three year period. Realizing that giving ability varies, the slogan we use is, “not equal giving but equal sacrifice”.
We also fund our missions program through offerings. Each year we receive what we call a faith promise offering for cross-cultural missions. We ask everyone to fill out a card indicating what he or she believes God will release to them for missions over the following twelve months. It is not a pledge and no one is obligated to give the indicated amount. It is a statement of faith and the funds are given as God provides. The total amount of the annual faith promise offering becomes the mission budget for the year. Again, giving to missions is an offering given above and beyond the tithe.
A third kind of giving involves alms. We don’t use this term much today but it has to do with giving to the poor and needy. In Acts 10:4 we read of Cornelius who was recognized by God for the alms he gave to the poor. As a result he had a vision to send for Peter who came and shared the gospel and his whole household was saved. Alms is an act of righteousness. It really means compassion. Giving of alms is giving out of a heart of compassion to meet needs.
Alms aren’t always gifts of money.In Acts 9:36 the Bible refers to alms deeds. This may include a helping hand, gifts of clothing, food, furniture, or some other item. Jesus said even a cup of cold water given in His name would not be unnoticed. Like offerings, alms is given above and beyond the tither. To help facilitate the giving of alms, the church has a compassion fund through which people can give alms to someone in need but wants to remain anonymous. Giving through the compassion funs is a way to do that.
Curse of Blessing
So what happens if people don’t give tithes and offerings? Rather than me telling you, I’ll let the Bible speak for itself. In Malachi 3:8 it says, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me, But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’”? The answer: in “tithes” and “offerings”. Not only were they neglecting the tithe and the offerings, what they were bringing was not acceptable. Instead of selecting the best of their flocks for sacrifice they chose to sacrifice the blind, crippled, and diseased animals.God told them to try giving gifts like that to their governor and see how pleased he would be. (Malachi 1:8)
God said, “You are cursed with a cured for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you” (Malachi 3:7). That sounds pretty strong, doesn’t it? Actually, God seems to say that if I don’t tithe and give proper offerings, I’m a thief. Is it any wonder then, that God can’ bless us? I don’t know about you but that’s a place I don’t want to be.
In contrast, God goes on to say, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. And test me in this,’ says the Lord of Hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until there is no more need.”That sounds a lot better. Again, I don’t know about you, but for me that’s where I want to be. For many years Sophia and I have tithed our income and given offerings and alms above and beyond our tithe. We haven’t become wealthy (at least not yet). Nevertheless, we continue to give by God’s grace and actually no longer even think of not doing it.
We all know that Stewardship is a sensitive subject for many if not all of us. And yet, the Lord is very clear about His expectations and the promises that He gives to each of us as we allow ourselves to submit to His principles in this area of my life in the Lord. Please pray, and allow Jesus himself to give you a new paradigm about stewardship. Hear His heart, obey His voice, and trust Him for your future. He will take care of the rest.