Taking the My out of Money: The right Thing

April 30, 2017

Well, today is the day.  You ready? 
It’s April 30th the last day to get your taxes filed for 2016.  Or maybe you’ve already filed.  Maybe it depends on whether it you are
getting money back or paying money out.
And taxes are a touchy subject
for some folks, Politicians are elected or rejected often based on what they
promise to do with our taxes.  Oh, if we only had every tax cut
that had been promised to us by the parties who got elected into power.
A little history here, Canadian
Income Tax is a hundred years old this year. 
It was first instituted in 1917 to help pay for Canada’s efforts in the
First World War.  When the Canadian income
tax act was first printed in 1917 it had six pages.  Today it has 1412 pages.  In 1917 the average Canadian paid $14.00, that’s in today’s dollars and
the total collected represented 2.6 percent of total government revenue.  Today the average Canadian will pay $4,120.00
in income tax and the total collected represents over half of the total
government revenue. 
It was Albert Einstein
who said  “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the
income tax.”
And taxes have been a touchy
subject as long as there have been taxes being paid, and that has been for
quite a long time.  How do you think the
Egyptians built the pyramids, or the Mayans built their cities, or the Romans
constructed the aqueducts and coliseums?
And as long as there have been folks collecting taxes there have
been folks resenting having their taxes collected.  Throughout the New Testament the term “Tax
Collector” is often used in statements like Matthew 9:10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus
and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors
and other disreputable sinners.  Or Mark 2:16 But when the teachers of
religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other
sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” Nice. 
And when the religious leaders criticized
Jesus one of the charges was Matthew 11:19 . . .‘He’s a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’
So here we are in week last of our Stewardship month.  You
can all breathe a sigh of relief.  It’s
almost over.
For
those who are visiting with us or new to Cornerstone this is an annual
event.  Each April I take the opportunity
to teach the theology of stewardship, which is a fancy way of saying we look at
what the Bible says about money, what got, how we get it and what we do with it
after we get it.  Nice thing is that
means I won’t ambush you about money throughout the year. 
And
we culminate Money Month with an event we call Step Up Cornerstone which
happens today and we will be talking more about that later in the service. 

Sometimes pastors choose to not speak about money in church, maybe in hopes that somehow their people will learn about it on their own, perhaps by osmosis. 
Or maybe
it’s because they feel that talking about money is too personal or too obtrusive. but Jesus talked a lot about money, he
talked about the way people make it and what they do with it after they have
it. 
And because money is talked about
in the scriptures, and because Jesus seemed to attach a great deal of
importance to it, to the point of linking it to our eternities it is something
that needs to be addressed. And we can’t just ignore it because it bothers some
people and offends other people.
Seriously, what would happen if
every preacher prepared his messages in an effort to not offend or bother
anyone?  You might as well open fortune
cookies. 
Apparently Jesus wasn’t afraid to
express his opinion on a wide variety of topics that are deemed off limits
today.  People’s behaviour, people’s
attitudes and people’s money. 
Surprisingly though, especially
if you are in the habit of watching the political
situation in the States, Jesus never talked about politics.  He never told
people how to vote, never expressed a preference for a certain political party,
never wore a campaign button or endorsed any particular
candidate or political party.  Just
sayin’.
And this is how this particular Jesus story happened.  Luke
20:20  
Watching for their
opportunity, the leaders sent spies pretending to be honest men. They tried to
get Jesus to say something that could be reported to the Roman governor so he
would arrest Jesus.
Who were these leaders?  In
the other gospels we are told they were the Pharisees and some unlikely allies.
 In the NLT we are told they were
“supporters of Herod”  the actual word
used was “Herodians”.
So, on
one side you have the Pharisees, the religious elite of the Jews and on the
other side you have the Herodians who through their support of Herod, the puppet king of Palestine, are de-facto supporters of Rome.  What is that old saying about “strange bed-fellows”? 
And so this unlikely and unholy union sent
a group to ask Jesus a seemingly harmless question, Luke
20:20-22 
Watching for their opportunity, the
leaders sent spies pretending to be honest men. They tried to get Jesus to say
something that could be reported to the Roman governor so he would arrest
Jesus.  “Teacher,” they said, “we know
that you speak and teach what is right and are not influenced by what others
think. You teach the way of God truthfully. 
Now tell us—is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Now we need to understand that this was not just a innocent
question about Jesus’ philosophy on taxation. 
They were not talking about taxation in general they were speaking of a
very specific tax.  2000 years ago in
conquered Palestine there were several different layers of taxation, much as
there is today in our country. 
Those in the know tell us that there was a first of all a ground
tax. Kind of
like our property tax.  Then there was income tax, that’s self-explanatory.   And then there as what was called “the poll
tax” or the “Tribute”, which considering that we are in district 13 is kind of
funny.
 This tax had been put in
place when the Romans conquered Israel in in 63 B.C. and had to be paid by
every male from the age of fourteen to the age of sixty-five, and by every
female from the age of twelve to sixty-five. 
It was a tax paid simply for the privilege of being alive and living as
a subject of the Emperor. 
And people resented paying it. 
There had already been one rebellion, 25 years earlier, primarily over
this particular tax. So you see where this is going, right?  If Jesus speaks out in favour of the tax, the
ordinary people are going to be outraged; it will solidify what the religious
right has been saying about Jesus not being the Messiah. 
However if Jesus rejects the tax the Herodians will take the
report back to Herod, and eventually to the Romans, that Jesus is talking
treason and encouraging people to not pay their taxes. Win, win for the enemies
of Jesus, lose, lose for Jesus himself.  In
Australia, they would say it was a bit of a sticky wicket, here we would say
that Jesus was between a rock and a hard place. 
Doesn’t seem to bother Jesus though he doesn’t even break stride
let’s keep reading, Luke 20:23-24  He saw through their trickery and said,
 “Show me a Roman coin.”
Some people have commented that it shows that Jesus wasn’t
concerned about money because he didn’t even have a coin on him. But the coin he was talking about wasn’t
simply pocket change, it was a denarius. 
And it was a silver coin that was the equivalent of a full day’s
salary.  But I think it goes deeper than
that.  The problem with the coin was the
inscription on it. On one side would be a picture of the present ruler and the
inscription “Tiberius Caesar, son of Divine Augustus.”  This picture and the claim of quasi-divinity
made the coin a portable idol, is it any wonder that Jesus wasn’t carrying one
with him.
So they waited with baited breath, waiting to find out who Jesus
would offend, knowing that there was no way that he could come out of this
unscathed.  And let’s keep reading  Luke 20:24  “Show me a Roman
coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
Simple question, perhaps they thought he was simply stalling for
time and so they answered.  Luke 20:24 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
And I’m sure they were thinking . . . “and . . .” Luke 20:25  “Well then,” he said, “give to Caesar
what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
And then we are told in Luke 20:26  So they failed to trap him by what he said in front of the people.
Instead, they were amazed by his answer, and they became silent.  
The big question for us today is “So
what?”  What does that mean for us today?
Some of Your Money is the Government’s  Nobody
really likes paying taxes, that’s something that most of us have in common, we
think we pay too much and deep down think others pay too little.  We always assume the burden falls to those of
us in the middle.  The very poor don’t
pay tax and neither do the very rich. 
Most of us were not surprised at the attitude expressed by
American business woman Leona Helmsley.  Helmsley
was worth over a billion dollars, when an employee commented that she must pay
a lot of taxes when she said “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes…” She
took it as her due that she shouldn’t have to pay taxes. 
It was no surprise when Donald Trump didn’t deny paying income tax
instead he said that made him smart.
Of course Helmsley did go to jail for income tax evasion and maybe
someday the president will as well. 
But the reality is that all of those who enjoy what our country
has to offer should pay taxes.  It was
President Franklin D. Roosevelt who said “Taxes, are the dues that we pay for
the privileges of membership in an organized society.”
Jesus was acknowledging that there was benefit to being a part of
the Roman Empire.  The sword of Rome might have been wielded by an oppressor but
it had brought peace to the known world, something that hadn’t been seen in
hundreds of years. Road systems were developed for trade, water systems were
built and laws were being
enforced.  It wasn’t perfect but it was working. 
It was the Roman Historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus who wrote “The repose of
nations cannot be secure without arms. Armies cannot be maintained without pay,
nor can the pay be produced without taxes.”
We grumble and complain about government waste and extravagance
but as long as we want our public health care, as long as we want our children
educated, as long as we expect a degree of safety, both from outside forces and
from the criminal element there will be taxes that have to be paid.  If we expect safe water to come out of our taps when we turn them on, and if we
expect our streets to be plowed and our garbage to be picked up we will have to
pay taxes. 
And the more you travel the more you appreciate our system.  (Pictures from Africa)  Because this is what health care looks like
without the taxes we pay.  And this is
what education looks like without the taxes we pay.  And this is what main roads look like without
the taxes we pay.  This what the
drinking water supply looks like without the taxes we pay.  And
this is what dinner looks like . . . actually that has nothing to do with taxes
it’s just one of my favourite Africa meal pictures. 
And so Jesus was telling us that if we want all the benefits that
our tax dollars bring then we will have to pay taxes.   And I’m proud to pay taxes in Canada,
although truth be told I think I could be just as proud even if I only paid
half as much.
And maybe tax time can even be a time to be thankful.  You understand that you pay more in taxes
than your Grandparents, or maybe even your parents made.   When I was a teenager I remember my father telling me what he paid for income tax that year and he seemed excited about
it.  When I asked him why he said “Do you
know how much I had to make in order to pay that much in tax?”
And so today, as 2000 years ago there are taxes that must be paid,
and I also think that our Governments need to pay heed to other words from 2000
years ago as well, it was Emperor Tiberius Caesar who observed “It is the duty
of a good shepherd to shear his sheep, not to skin them.”
Some of Your Money is Yours  Then
there is the money that we get to keep. 
And this money comes with all kinds of choices.  Will we spend it or will we save it?  And what we will spend it on and what will we
save it for?   Most of us are familiar with
Christ’s words when he told his followers Luke 12:22 Then, turning to his
disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday
life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear.”  And
while we are not to worry about such things we are still required to provide
them. 
And some of us make good choices and some of us make bad
choices. 
Every once in a while, you hear about someone who is desperate
financial straits and then they win the lottery. 
They are supposed to be a good news stories, but my first thought is
always “What is a someone who is desperate financial straits doing buying
lottery tickets?”  You
understand that is a message for a different time, but lotteries are really a
tax on the mathematically challenged.
If we spend more than we make eventually it will catch up with us,
if we spend our money to support our addictions, eventually that will catch up
with us. 
And I don’t think that Christians are supposed to be destitute but
I do believe that we are supposed to be responsible with what we have.  A good exercise for all of us is every once
is a while just sit down and figure out where you are spending your money.  Are you using it wisely or not? 
And that really is subjective, what you might consider wise I
might consider foolish.  But if you are
having trouble paying for food and shelter or if you have problems giving the
government their share or God his share then you may be spending it in places
that it shouldn’t be spent.  And those
are all part of the choices we make.
Some of Your Money is God’s  From
the very beginning
of the book people have offered up something
as an offering or as a sacrifice.  So in
Genesis and continuing throughout the Bible we see people returning part of
what they have to God.  Notice I said “returning” because we need to understand that all that we have comes from
God, from our lives to our livelihoods.  And
sometimes that was called offerings, and sometimes it was called sacrifices and
sometimes it was called a tithe.
And those
gifts, those sacrifices, those offerings were given for a couple of different reasons.  From the time the Israelites began gathering
together for corporate worship there were costs associated with that
worship. 
If you read through the Old Testament first there was the
Tabernacle, which was like a portable temple that needed to be constructed and
maintained.  There were priests who led
the people into worship who needed to be paid, there were scrolls and ink for recording
the scriptures that needed to be purchased. 
There were sacrifices and offerings that were part of their worship
which needed to be provided.  And God
called on his people to provide for those expenses.  There was a fiscal responsibility to their worship. 
Could God have done it without the giving of his people?  Sure he’s God.  But he knew that anything in life that
doesn’t cost you something isn’t worth anything. 
Today there is still that
practical aspect of our worship.  If you
want to worship under a tree by yourself there will probably be very little
practical cost associated with that. 
However, if you want to come together corporately to worship there are
costs associated with that.  We’ve talked
about this before.  Before we even look
at salaries at Cornerstone there is a building to be paid for and
maintained. 
There are mortgage payments that
have to be made every month, there is power that needs to be paid to light and
heat the building, there are cleaning supplies and insurance and snowplowing
and lawn mowing.
And we need to have people come
in to inspect and maintain the alarms and emergency lighting and to inspect and
clean the Heating and Ventilation system and to take away the garbage.  
And that is before we do anything
in the building.  And then there are the
salaries and curriculum and licensing costs that allow us to provide the
ministries for you and your family.
Do we require that people at
Cornerstone give?  Yep, sure do.  Does that mean that if you don’t give you
can’t worship here?  Nope.  Does that mean that if we are going to send
someone around to your door looking for your offering envelope?  Nope.   
But if you don’t give there will
be no Cornerstone.  You understand that
right?   If the people of Cornerstone didn’t make the sacrifices necessary to pay the
bills then the staff would be laid off, the building
would be sold and there would be no Cornerstone.  Because there is no magical pot that we go to
for our funds.  Every dollar in our budget comes from those
who call Cornerstone their church home.
But more than just the practical side of giving is the spiritual
side of giving.  Because even if you were
worshipping under a tree by yourself there should still be a sense of giving
back to God.  Early in the story that was
called making sacrifices and it involved bringing meat, grain, wine or oil and
offering it to God as a gift. 
Did God need those things? 
No he is God.  But it goes back to
anything that doesn’t cost you anything isn’t really worth anything, including
your worship.  Because it allows us to
acknowledge that what we have comes from God and to be thankful for that which
we keep.       
And very early in the story it is
laid down what God’s people are to return to God, When the law was laid down
over three thousand years ago it was written 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.”  And it was
reiterated in Deuteronomy
14:22
“You must set aside a tithe of your
crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.”      
And often when you bring up the tithe people will tell you that
the tithe is an Old Testament concept, and that is a sermon in itself, but when
Paul was writing about money to the church in Corinth this is what he wrote. 1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion
of the money you have earned. The
believers in Corinth had a Jewish heritage so I wonder what they assumed when
Paul said that should put aside a portion of the money they had earned.
And then they will go on to tell you that the Tithe was used for
something very specific and that is true, listen to the words of the prophet Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the
storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. The tithe was provided so that the temple and all that was
involved in temple worship could be maintained. 
And we don’t have a temple and priests and scribes but we do have a
church and we do have a pastoral staff. 
So what is the tithe?  Tithe
simply means tenth and throughout the word of God the concept is reiterated
that all that we have comes from God but he requires a tenth of it back.  For the people of God this does not mean that
we give God ten percent of what is ours, it means that He allows us to keep
ninety percent of what is His. 
Now listen to the last part of that verse from 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!
And so God tells his people, “If
you tithe, if you return to me ten percent of what I have given to you then I
will bless you.” 
You see when we give to God, we
are just taking our hands off what already belongs to Him.
But it really doesn’t matter what
I say today, the past two message we talked about why people gave the little
things to God and the big things to God. 
And the reasons were the same. 
They loved God and they believed in the mission.  And those are the same reasons you will
choose to give to God through Cornerstone. 
And as a side note, we live in a great country where if you give
to God what is God’s than Caesar won’t want nearly as much. 

When you do up your taxes this year and you use the receipt that
is provided by Cornerstone for your giving you will discover that Caesar will
give you a break on your taxes.  If you
gave a hundred dollars a week, which is the tithe on a fifty-thousand-dollar salary, then you will save over $2,500.00 on your
taxes.  And to quote F. J. Raymond
“Next to being shot at and missed, nothing is quite as satisfying as an income
tax refund.”