Last week I asked for some questions regarding finances – and there was quite a response! This was encouraging to me because it shows that there is genuine interest in finding out what God has to say about finances. There were nearly 30 unique questions – several of which were asked by multiple people. They ranged from the technical to the very personal, hypothetical to the very practical. Today I want to address as many as I can, and so if we come to the end of the sermon and your question has not been answered, rest assured that it will be the next time I preach on this topic. If in the meantime, you want to discuss anything that I do or do not say today, then as usual call the Church Office and we can talk over the phone, or even set up a time to discuss in person what is on your mind. Let’s pray. First, there was a suggestion that I wanted to share today: Dave Ramsey offers an excellent course on financial Stewardship God’s way. By sheer coincidence, I got an email from a friend this week who began the course less than 3 years ago. Only about 5 years older than I am, he had a mortgage, student loan debt, some credit card debt, a vehicle loan, etc. As of last week he is completely debt free. The best part about it is that he did it God’s way. No gimmicks, no Ponzi schemes. He said that he followed the course, and is now completely out of debt, and plans to stay that way. At the moment we are in the planning stage for offering this course sometime this year for those who would be interested. Before we dive in, I want to point something else out briefly. Even though todays sermon is more focused on finances, the Bible has a lot to say about stewardship in other areas of our lives. Specifically, we are supposed to be good managers of our: Time, Talents, Bodies, Finances, and our Testimonies. Over this year, I’ll be sure to give attention to each of these areas as well. 1. What is tithing? Where did the money go in the Bible? Wasn’t tithing also used to pay taxes to the government? To tithe means to give one-tenth of something. In the Bible, if you had ten silver coins, you were to give one of them. If you had 100 cows, you were to give 10 of them, and so on. Tithing went to the Temple, every third year to the Priests (Num. 18, Dt. 14 for priests and the aliens, fatherless, and widows). The tithe was for the Priests. Building fund for the tabernacle and then the temple was a free-will donation (1 Chr. 29:1-9) Helping the poor was from the generosity of the people (Dt. 15:7-11) Tithing used to support the government? No, tithing and taxes were separate (1 Sam. 8) 2. To whom should we tithe? If I give elsewhere (i.e. Pregnancy Solutions), is this considered my tithe? What does the Bible say about tithing to your local church if you only attend part-time? Back to the answer on the first set of questions, the overarching principle we see there is that we are supposed to give of our finances where we are ministered to. There is a difference between a ministry that ministers to you, and a ministry that ministers to other people. When I say ministry, I mean ‘do they help you to grow closer in your walk with Jesus Christ? It is easy to mix words here, and call something a ministry when it isn’t one to you. It may be for other people, but not for you. What all of this means is that if a ministry is actively helping you to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ, then you are to give to that ministry. If it is something that you enjoy or support or believe in, but it does not actively help to develop your relationship with Christ, then you are free to give support to it, but based on the principles in Scripture, giving to this would be above and beyond a tithe. Keeping this principle in mind, if you attend a church part time, and then attend elsewhere for the rest of the year, then you should give where you are ministered to. If you live on the east coast for part of the year, and then the west coast for the rest of the year, your tithe or offering should go to whichever church you are attending that particular week. Israel had to deal with this issue as well. Everyone wanted to go to the Temple in Jerusalem, but some lived too far away for this to be practical every year. So, several other temples were set up throughout the nation, so that people could travel to their local temple to offer their tithes and offerings. 3. Tithe on net or gross? Good question. Going back to an earlier answer regarding tithing and taxes: they were separate (1 Sam. 8). Often, we think about tithing as money that we give on top of everything else – bills, taxes, etc. Biblically, tithing came first – not only historically, but literally as well. This means that you were to pay taxes on top of your tithe, not the other way around. What this means is that we are supposed to give before any taxes are considered. 4. What if we don't tithe? Are we hindering God when we don't? Tithing is something between you and God. The first question I have for you is why. Why is it that you do not tithe? The answer is different for many people. Some believe that they do not need to. Others do not want to. Others may want to, but are worried that they will not be able to make ends meet. From my own experience, and from the experience of many others, I can tell you that God can do more with the 90% that is left after tithing, than I can do with the full amount of my income. There have been times when 100% of our income did not look like it could cover all of our needs. Yet when we tithed, our needs were met. Malachi 3:6-12 God explains the results of tithing and not tithing. Someone asked if this was a promise or a principle. Reading through the passage, God says that these are things that He will do. I think we can hold God to His word. Again, reading the passage – does it say that we will get a blessing in the same way that we have given – no. It may well be that you give to God in one way and He blesses you in another. This is also part of what it means to give cheerfully. Your attitude must be in the right place. If you are giving to God for the sake of getting something back, then your attitude is wrong. Consistently throughout the Bible we give to God simply because God is great. As to whether we are hindering God . . . the answer is no, in a way – and yes, in a way. No because God does not rely on us. He does not need us – he delights in us when we obey Him. If God wants something to be done, He will find a way to do it – either through us or despite us. When we decline to obey God we are hindering Him only insofar as His will was to work through us. What that means is this: While God’s will is going to be accomplished, if we are disobedient, then the thing that we are hindering is God working in us to accomplish His will. You could say that it is more an issue of hindering ourselves than anything else. 5. Why don't the majority of people tithe? It is true that somewhere around 96% of regular church attenders do not tithe. I hesitate to try and answer on behalf of other people. I can tell you that in the past when I did not tithe, it was for a couple of reasons. First, I did not believe that it applied to me. I believed that tithing was strictly something that was expected in the Old Testament, and had nothing to do with Christians in the New Testament. Someone else asked this sort of question, and I’ll address it shortly. Another reason I gave for not tithing was that we did not have enough of an income to be able to afford tithing. I answered that one a few minutes ago. It could be for any number of reasons. Some do not believe it is necessary, others simply do not know and have not taken the time to find out, some are lacking the faith that God can or will provide. I have been working on our website for some time now, and one of the pages I have been writing is a frequently asked questions list. One of the questions on there is: Am I expected to give money the first time I visit? Here is the answer: As a church, we believe that giving back to God from your finances is an act of worship just as much as any other part of the service. At the same time, we believe that this is an area between you and the LORD. Therefore, we make no assumptions regarding your ability or willingness to participate in worshipping God this way. I recently came across some questions on tithing, and someone responded – I believe it was a Pastor – and said: I wish people would be honest with themselves. So many want to come to a church to grow spiritually, but when it comes to finances, they are unwilling to contribute more than a small amount, and they close their ears. What makes them think it is appropriate to be a part of a family they will not contribute to? 6. What would happen if more than just a few people tithed? This is a great question, but hard to answer. Since we do not make assumptions about the ability or willingness to participate – the simple truth is that we have no way of knowing for sure whether 4% of the people here tithe, or if everyone does. I read a statistic recently that explained that if the average church congregation was forced to live off of welfare wages, and also forced to tithe those wages to the church, then most churches would suffer a 35% increase in giving. That statistic holds true for our church as well. Let me try to put that into perspective. On the agenda for the special meeting is a review of the Church budget. This year, we are suggesting 2 budgets: an austere budget, and an aspirational budget. The austere is based on current giving. The aspirational was put together by the leaders of the various ministries, who explained what funds they would need to be more effective in their areas of ministry. If more than just a few people tithed, if we saw an increase of 35% in giving . . . that would just about cover the difference between our austere and our aspirational budget. That is what would happen. We would be able to do much more ministry as a church. 7. Shouldn't the church have faith that God will provide whatever money it needs and not be so concerned with tithing? This is another good question. First, we do have faith that God will provide. We would not be here were it not for God’s provision. Second, I want to point out again that how we handle our finances as Christians is something that God is very concerned with. I mentioned last week that the Bible talks about money more than any other issue. We would not be faithful as a church if we decided to not concern ourselves with something that God has concerned Himself with. Let me point out again that giving back to God from the resources He has given you is an act of worship. We are concerned about tithing for the same reasons that we are concerned with prayer, fellowship, love, peace, and so on. These are all things that God is concerned with, so how could we not be? 8. If tithing is OT, why should I be concerned with it now? Why tithe? (generally, and personally) I think the underlying question here is whether the OT has any bearing on Christians. This is a very big question, and it is outside of the scope of our study today – but let me answer it briefly with this: The OT law fell into 2 categories: ceremonial and moral. Ceremonial laws have ended because Christ has been the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. Moral laws (things like do not murder, do not commit adultery, etc.) are still in place because morality does not change. Jesus Himself reasserts many of the morality many times. God never says that something is morally wrong in one place, and then morally right in another. Morality does not change because God does not change. If the person who asked this question is still uncertain about all of this, then please consider that throughout the book of Romans, Paul uses the word law to refer to several different things (the entire OT, just the Pentateuch, and then ceremonial law). Throughout the entire Bible, we find that the way we handle our finance is indeed a heart issue, a morality issue, and not a ceremonial issue. Finally, notice that consistently throughout the New Testament, even though we are under grace and not law, the expectations regarding morality are increased, and not lowered. In the OT you were not supposed to murder. In the NT you are not even supposed to hate. In the OT you were not supposed to commit adultery. In the NT, lust is out of the question. So when it comes to the moral issue of giving, it seems clear that while it is normal to give more than 10%, it would be abnormal to give less than 10%. In the NT, being under grace is never a license to do less for God – it is always the motivation to do more. I know that was a short answer for a big question, but I hope it was helpful. Christians should be concerned with tithing for a couple of reasons. 1. The New Testament Church gave according to need: Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-37, 11:27-29, Gal. 6:10, Heb. 13:16. 2. The New Testament Church gave according to Gods’ directives: 1 Cor. 9:7, 16:1. 3. Giving was a way of expressing love and thanksgiving: Acts 20:35. 4. Giving was a means of supporting those in ministry: 1 Tim. 5:17, 1 Cor. 9:1-11, Phil. 4:15-16. Let me conclude by saying this: your giving is between you and God. As a church we will not judge you based on what you do or do not give. Judgment belongs to God. 9. Where does the money go? Should the church tithe to missions? Why aren't we doing it? (Currently, missions are only supported by members) For details on where the money goes, just take a look at the budget. The money that is given goes towards funding various ministries, lighting and water, rent of this building, pay for Kimberly and myself, and many other things. Should we tithe to missions? I feel that it should be one of our priorities – right now it accounts for about 3% of our budget. Biblically, no percentage is given regarding how much should go there, but as always, the spreading of the Gospel is what we are all about. I would love to see our church give 10% to missions. 10. Why, even when we make good money is it impossible to save or buy? This is the sort of question that would be answered very well by the Dave Ramsay course we’ll be offering this year. In brief, there are several reasons why no matter the size of your paycheck you might be short of money: 1. Consider whether you really need it. 2. God may be using this as a way to test your faith. 3. Consider whether you have misused what God has already given you. 4. Have you violated a Biblical finance principle: Stinginess – Prov. 11:24 Hastiness – Prov. 21:5 Stubbornness – Prov. 13:18 Laziness – Prov. 20:30 Indulgence – Prov. 23:21 Craftiness – Prov. 28:19 11. What if my spouse and I disagree about tithing? What should I do? Communicate, communicate, communicate! Make every effort to understand the other person’s point of view. Urge each-other to go to God’s word and see what it says. Eph. 5:21-33. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church. Wives, respect your husbands. God brought you both together for a reason, and I am certain that God can bring you together on this as well. Be patient with each-other, and especially pray for each-other. 12. What is said in the Bible about having little finances - just enough to live on? If I am living paycheck to paycheck, how can I afford to tithe too? What if I lose my job? Should I still give 10%? It is no fun at all when finances are difficult – I know this from first-hand experience. Regardless, God has made His expectations clear in His word. The real question is: will we trust Him to do more with the 90% than we could ever do with the 100%? Tithing throughout the Bible was based on income, or growth of assets. This means that if you have no income, then you have nothing to tithe off of. If your assets have not grown, then you have nothing to tithe off of. If you still feel led to give, then don’t forget that an offering is always an option as well. Remember that offerings were separate from tithes, and so if you have no income, but feel led to give, then give whatever the LORD directs you to give. 13. Should giving to the church come before providing for your family's needs? Isn't this ministry? This is a very good question. Two verses come to mind: 1 Tim. 5:8, Acts 2:42-47. We do need to take care of our families, yes. We are also here as a church to help care for one-another. If you genuinely need help, then ask for help. One thing I have found to be true is this: if I wait until I have enough to give, I will find that I never have enough. My only other option then, is to obey God. I am not trying to make light of your situation. I know what it is like to be in that sort of situation, and it is painful. Obey the LORD, and He will never let you down. I would like to talk with you, if you are willing to. If there is some way that I or our church can help, I want to know. 14. In the last days, how will Christians buy and sell without taking the mark of the beast? The Bible does not speak to this issue very much, or even very clearly. If it is the case that we are still around at this point, then I think that at some point your only options would be to take the mark (bad move), or hope that someone would help you.