The Blessing of Faithfulness

April 28, 2013

Well here we are in
week four of Money Month.  If you are
visiting or new to Cornerstone this is an annual event.  A number of years ago I decided that instead
of preaching on money when there was a need in the church that I would spend a
month each year to teach the theology of giving.  The bible talks a lot about money and the
believer’s responsibility with what God has given them.  And so I have an obligation as your pastor to
let you know what that responsibility is. 
This year our theme
has been “The Blessed Life”.  Week one we
looked at the how and the who of the blessing.  
That God is not a grumpy god but a loving God who wants to see his
children blessed.  We find that in the
first chapter of the first book of the bible, we find it in the last chapter of
the last book of the bible and we find it throughout the bible. 
And according to the
bible, God’s word, when we are faithful and give with pure motives some of
those blessings are financial.  You may
want to ignore it or try to rationalize it as spiritual blessings but that
isn’t and wasn’t the context that those verses were written in.
In week two I spoke
about First Things, how God required the Israelites to dedicate to him the
First Born as an act of remembrance, to remember that they were once slaves and
God had delivered them to freedom.  We
give to remember that we too were slaves to sin and God delivered us.  We looked at how God required the first of
all that was harvested to remind his people that all they had come from
him.  And that is still true today.   And God required that the people bring the
first tithe as an act of obedience.  He
didn’t require their money, he is God, master and king of the universe, all of
this is his.  But the act of giving is an
act of worship, it is an act of obedience, it is us giving God a tangible
tribute.
And then last Sunday
we looked at the blessing that was attached to the Tithe, the ten percent that
God asks us to return to him.  Remember
we don’t give the tithe, because you can’t give someone what already belongs to
them.  You can only bring it to
them. 
This morning we are
going to unpack a little more about this concept of the tenth. 
The first time the
tenth is mentioned in the scriptures was referenced in the passage that was
read for us earlier.  And it revolves
around this mysterious figure Melchizedek.
We don’t know a
whole lot about him, and what we do know is buried in mystery. We know that he
was the King of Salem, we know that he was a priest of the Most High God, we
know that he had a funny name and we know that Abraham thought enough of him
that he made an offering of ten percent of everything he owned to him.
He is fairly obscure.  He’s first mentioned in Genesis 14 where he
is given a total of three verses.  He’s
not mentioned again until Psalm 110:4 where David makes reference to the
coming Messiah and writes “You are a priest forever in
the order of Melchizedek.”
And then nothing, not in
Proverbs, or Ecclesiastes, none of the prophets mention him.  Melchizedek’s name doesn’t come up in any of
the gospels or the book of Acts. Paul doesn’t mention him in the Pauline
Epistles or the Pastoral Epistles. Epistles are not the wives of the apostles;
it’s simply a fancy name for letters. And then all of a sudden the author of
the book of Hebrews writes 14 verses about this mystery king, drawing some
interesting comparisons between Melchizedek and Jesus.  This is really interesting, Melchizedek was
called the King of Salem which means King of Peace, we are told that there is
no record of his father or mother or any ancestors, no beginning or end to his
life that he was like the Son of God. 
Interesting.  And then we are told
in Hebrews 7:6 But
Melchizedek, who was not a descendant of Levi, collected a tenth from Abraham.
And Melchizedek placed a blessing upon Abraham, the one who had already
received the promises of God.

So not
only is this the first place in the scriptures where a tithe is mentioned but
the tithe is associated with a blessing. 
Abraham tithes and he is blessed. 
In the story of King Hezekiah restoring the temple in 2 Chronicles the
people began to tithe and they were blessed. 
In Malachi we read last week that God told the people, through his
prophet, that if they tithed he would open the windows of heaven and pour out
blessings on them. 

But
what we are interested in this morning is the fact that the story of
Melchizedek and Abraham in Genesis is the first recorded instance of someone
financially providing for God’s work.  Individual’s
offerings had been given before but this is the first time that a
representative of God is given a set portion of someone’s income.

One of the top three
reasons given in an extensive survey of non-believers as to why they didn’t
attend church was “because they are always asking for money.”  I don’t blame people, I guess probably
churches are constantly asking for finances but I wonder why that is.  And besides people don’t stop attending the Lions
Club or the rotary or the Kinsman and they are always asking for money. 
Every year we have
door knock appeals from the Red Cross, and the Cancer Fund, and the Kidney
Foundation and receive dozens of letters from other worthy causes and yet
people don’t say; “Hey they are only interested in money.”
Maybe the reason the world
feels negative about the church and finances is that they don’t feel like they
are getting anything in return or that the church doesn’t contribute anything
to the community.
 But then again the bible doesn’t tell us that
we are a service organization, and the only thing that the scripture requires
us to put back into society is better people and I guess when everything is
said and done that’s a pretty important contribution. 
But God never expected the
world to support the church.  From its
very beginnings the church carried its own load.  You can hunt through the New Testament and
you won’t find any reference to the early church having a bagel drive to raise
funds or having a Saturday catacomb sale or a chariot wash.  But you will find instances like Acts 2:44-45 And all the
believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold
their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
And Acts
4:32
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that
what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had.
Now that is a fairly
radical concept of giving and a pretty radical concept of living.  And nobody can really say whether or not that
communal concept extended beyond the first generation of believers in
Jerusalem. 
But we know that the churches
that sprung out of the initial movement continued to be generous.  Even the Corinthian church which was
criticized for sexual immorality and theological error was commended for their
generosity in giving to the work of the kingdom. 
In Paul’s first letter to the
Corinthians he urged them to give, we can find that in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now
regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in
Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in
Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of
the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect
it all at once.
And the result of that
admonition is found in 2 Corinthians where Paul
commended the Corinthians by saying: 2 Corinthians
8:10
Here is my advice: It would be good for
you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who
wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it.
Wow, not only were they the
first to give but they wanted to give. 
Would kind of remind you of what Paul said about the Macedonian churches;
listen to this,   2 Corinthians 8:2-4 They
are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also
filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can
testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they
did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege
of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem.
Can’t you just hear them “Please
Paul, we want to give more, we know we’ve already given a lot but please let us
help more.” 
So let it be said
that the biblical precedent is that 1)
God’s people provide for God’s
work. 
We don’t expect the world to
do it, we don’t expect the government to do it is to be done through the giving
of the people of God.
But how much?  What are the people of God supposed to
give?  It is inevitable that when we talk
about the tithe or a tenth of our income people always say “but that is an Old
Testament concept”.  And it’s true that
it is an Old Testament concept, in fact it is first laid down in Leviticus 27:30 “One tenth of the produce of the
land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the
LORD and must be set apart to him as holy.”
But then again “thou
shalt not kill” is an Old Testament concept as well but we don’t write that
off, do we?
And even though the tithe wasn’t
commanded until Leviticus we actually have two instances where people gave ten
percent of what they had to God before the law was laid down.  The first instance was in Genesis chapter 14
where Abraham gave a tenth of all he had to God.  I wonder why he decided to give a tenth? 
It wasn’t written down
anywhere, there weren’t any meddling preachers, so why ten percent?  Then Jacob decides to make an offering to the
lord and we read in Genesis 28:22 “And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place
for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives
me.”
Now isn’t that
strange, of all the choices that Jacob could make he decides on the very same
amount that Abraham did.  No written
instructions.  No law.  This was before the bible said “a tithe
belongs to the lord” matter of fact it was before the bible.  He could have made a hundred choice, 1%, 2%,
and 3%, all the way up to 100%.  Could it
be that God told them?
So the tithe is mentioned in
the law and it’s mentioned before the law. 
But what about in the New Testament? 
Take the case of the Pharisees, Jesus did not like these guys every time
you see them together in the scriptures they are fighting; they mix like oil
and water.  And Jesus condemned the
Pharisees for a lot of things but there was one thing that he commended them
for and that is found in Matthew 23:23 “What
sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For
you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but
you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You
should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.
Jesus didn’t tell
them to practice justice, mercy and faith instead of tithing; he told them to
practice justice mercy and faithfulness while tithing.  He condemned them for hypocrisy, he condemned
them for neglecting important things, he called them tombs full of dead men’s
bones, he called them snakes, but he commended them for their tithing.
Remember back in 1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of each week, you
should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned.
Acts 18 tells us
that the Corinthian church was started by converted Jews, now remember that the
law was pretty explicit about the tithe, if you were to tell a Jew that they
should set aside a sum of money for God’s work in keeping with their income I
wonder what amount would come to mind? 
Throughout the gospels Jesus commended people for giving ten percent or
more but he never commended anyone for giving less than ten percent.  On two occasions he even told people to give
everything they had, and when he praised the widow in the temple it was because
she had given everything that she had.
Where are we
at?  Could Christ commend us for our
giving?  We have many people in the
church that tithe and some people who more than tithe and a good number of
people who it would appear would rather die than tithe.    And
if that is the case have you remembered God’s work in your will?  We have, 10% of our estate is to go the
church that we are actively worshipping in at the time of our death.
One more than one
occasion Jesus used a person’s handling of money as an indication of their
spirituality.  The rich young ruler felt
that he had done everything he needed to do to find favour in God’s eyes, and
Jesus said “there’s one more thing that you have to do, you have to let go of
the purse strings.” Why?  Because God’s
blessing upon our lives will cost us everything that we value in life more than
Jesus. 
If there is anything
in your life that you value more than Jesus Christ then you are not a
disciple.  As long as you have something
in your life that is more important than God you are worshipping at the feet of
a golden calf.  The bible tells us that
the rich young ruler went away sorrowful. 
Why?  Because he had discovered
what he owned and what owned him.
James
Moffat made this statement, “A man’s treatment
of money is the most decisive test of his character, how he made it and how he
spends it.”  Jesus said something
very similar in Luke 16:11 And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will
trust you with the true riches of heaven?
If you haven’t given
God his due, does that make you untrustworthy with worldly wealth?  I don’t know, maybe Oswald
J. Smith was right when he said, “I have
learned that money is not the measure of a man, but it is often the means of
finding out how small he is.”  You
know I am convinced that some people will never be trusted with a pile because
they weren’t true to God with the little bit that they did have.  Other’s I am convinced profited because they
rendered unto God that which was God’s.
In saying that let’s
say this, 2.
God Expects us to be Faithful With What He’s Given Us.  One wit wrote these words, “It’s not what you’d do with a million, if riches should e’r
be your lot, but what you are doing at present with the buck and a quarter you
got.”  There are those who consistently
tell you what they’ll do for God, when their ship comes in.  If they’re anything like me they’ll probably
be at the airport when their ship comes in. 
God isn’t interested in what you’d do if you had so and so’s money.  He’s a lot more interested in what you’re
doing with what he gave you.
When God used Moses
he used a simple staff, what would have happened if Moses had of said, “Hold
it, let’s wait until I have a fancy rod, I could do a much better job with a
prettier rod.”  No, he used what God had
given him.  When David slew goliath it
was with a simple sling.  You know it’s a
whole lot easier to be faithful with a lot when you’ve already learned to be
faithful with a little.  If children are
taught to tithe it will be easier when they are adults to continue doing
it.  J.D.
Rockefeller Sr. One of the richest men in the world in his day said “If I had not tithed the first dollar I made I would not
have tithed the first million dollars I made. 
Tell your readers to train the children to tithe, and they will grow up
to be faithful stewards of the lord.”
A pig and
a cow were talking about what they gave that farmer, the cow said “well I give
cream and butter and milk” “hah”  said
the pig, “I give bacon, and pork chops and ham.”  “The difference” said the cow, “is that I
give well I am still alive” Some give according to
their means and others give according to their meanness, where are you?
God’s economy is not
based on greed.  When I seek things with
greed I get what I hadn’t expected.  It
started way back at the beginning with Adam and Eve.  They didn’t eat the forbidden fruit because
they were hungry; they ate it because they wanted to be like God.  Instead they got tossed out of the garden, literally ate their way out of house and
home. 
In the book of
Genesis we read the story of Abraham offering his nephew Lot the first choice
of the lands they were settling and Lot took the very best, he was being like a kid. 
I remember seeing a Peanuts cartoon once where Lucy and Linus were
taking the last two pieces of cake and Lucy took the biggest piece.  “Hey” said Linus “if I had of had first
choice I would have taken the smallest piece.” 
“So, what are you grumbling
about” replied Lucy.  Lot took the biggest piece and eventually he
ended up losing everything.
Why did David want
Bathsheba?  He already had three wives.  The greed that David had put a gulf between
him and God and eventually led to the ruin of his family.
Tithing is not an
investment.  You don’t do it out of
greed.  You don’t do it to multiply your
riches.  And you don’t give to prove how
good you are and you don’t give to gain control. 
The blessing comes
when we give to honour God.   It’s not the blessed chequebook it is the
blessed life, you don’t give to get you give to give. You give out of your love
for God and out of your concern for ministry.
Even in saying that, let’s
remember that God always repays when you give. 
If your motive is pure. 
God doesn’t settle all his
debts in this life but he is no man’s debtor. 
Listen to what Jesus told his followers in Luke
14:14
Then at the resurrection of the
righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”
I don’t want to get
into a deep theological discussion on rewards and crowns and levels of rewards
in heaven, but I love the story of the man who got to heaven and Peter showed him to this
little tiny shack and said “here it is.”  
The man was flabbergasted and replied “This is it, what happened to my
mansion”  “well” said Peter “this is all
the building material you sent up”
God will take care of the
reward.  And there is repayment in this
life as well.  Mark 10:29-30 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and
I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or
mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News,
will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters,
mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to
come that person will have eternal life.
People often ask how in the
world can people tithe, I can’t make it on 100% let alone 90%.  But it’s amazing how far God can stretch that
90% when we believe that he can and will do it. 
Have you ever looked at where your money goes?  Is God’s money paying for the needs or the
wants? 
There is a great story in John 6:8-13 Then Andrew,
Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley
loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” “Tell
everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes.
(The men alone numbered 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God,
and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish.
And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told
his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they
picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people
who had eaten from the five barley loaves. So the next thing we learn is
3. God’s Multiplication Often
Begins With our Subtraction.
If the boy had of
kept his five loaves and 2 fish he could have fed what five or six people?  Maybe. 
But with his gift and God’s blessing he was able to feed five thousand.
The bottom line, nothing that I
have said this morning has made one iota of difference in your attitude toward
giving.  I have just fulfilled some
people concept of the preacher that is always looking for money.  Somebody once told me during a building
project that when I died they were going to inscribe Luke 16:22 on my
headstone, you are familiar with Luke 16:22 “Finally, the poor beggar died.”
If you tithe you are
thinking “good he really told them”  if
you don’t tithe you’re thinking “why did I bother coming this morning”  I’m not trying to guilt people into
giving.  Maybe I should get a pulpit that
I can pound on and tell you that if you’re not tithing then you are going to
hell. But I’m not sure that I really believe that.  But before we close let me run one more
scripture and thought by you, alright.
Repeatedly the bible tells us
not to test God. Old Testament and New Testament agree on that.  But there is one occasion that God says hey
test me, try me on this one and see that I’m not fooling, ok.  That is found in Malachi
3:10
Bring all the tithes into the
storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD
of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out
a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to
the test!
This isn’t Denn Guptill, it’s not the Cornerstone church, this
is God almighty, the creator of the universe challenging the people of
God.  Challenging you saying if you tithe
it’s not going to hurt financially, but you will have to trust me.