Sunday, August 28, 2016

Series: Without Ceasing - No.3 - PLANT

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.  Luke 6:38(NLT)
For the Christian there are a number of lifestyle hallmarks that aren’t vague or up for debate.  Praying without ceasing, Proclaiming God’s Word without ceasing, and today we look at Planting without ceasing.

To “plant” is to drop seeds in the ground.  In order to do that you must let them go into the place where they will grow…the soil.  In the Kingdom of God the soil is something like an offering plate; the seed is whatever God places in your hands.

It’s all about giving with generosity…and getting so good at it you learn to love being a blessing with your giving like God loves you.

Jesus said a lot about motives.  And when it comes to our motives in giving, this text gives us great insight into human nature.  Jesus knew people, and the condition of the human heart.  He knew (and knows) how much we are more likely NOT to give.  Especially when we can get out of it!  We are most naturally bent in the direction of keeping, and then trying to defend why we keep rather than give.  (This is the age-old ploy, do I tithe on the net or gross?)

One Pastor probably came the closest to nailing that whole rationalization proclivity when he announced from the pulpit one Sunday, Brethren, let us all give now according to what we reported on this year's Federal Income Tax return.

If you are a believer, you have heard many times how it is a Christian's responsibility and joy to give.  If you are human, your heart probably rebelled, alerting you to the fact that you really didn't want to give.  You might have even had the thought cross your mind, who does that preacher think he is, telling me I should put MY money in HIS plate?  There are three responses I've come to understand:

1.     It's not my plate; 

2.     It's not your money; 

3.     The preacher is supposed to tell the congregation to put the Lord's tithe in the Lord's plate on the Lord's Day, and in the Lord's way, which is cheerfully!

Cheerful giving is what I want to talk to you about today.  This speaks not so much about how much, but how we give our gift. 

I have read the Bible, attended seminars on Biblical stewardship, studied human nature and history.  In all, I have not been able to discover more than two basic motivations, or reasons why people give.   We either give because we have to; it’s a legalism thing.  Or we give because we trust what God said about giving and receiving (which is how God gives).

Jesus warns many times that we should not elevate self.  Drawing attention to self by giving makes us hypocritical; we announce our humility.  Jesus said giving for personal glory or popularity is wrong. 

In Matthew 6 Jesus saw a poor woman humbly and quietly put two little coins in the offering.  He also saw rich folks having trumpets blaring while they dropped in a fortune.  Jesus abhorred the "blowing of horns" because it put people on different levels.  When rich people loudly gave a large contribution, it announced to the poor person that in the Lord's house poor folks are excess baggage. 

Chuck Swindol told about a hi-tech offering box he heard about in a church.  This box has a laser that reads the contribution immediately.  When you drop in a $5 bill or more nothing happens.  Any coins that total fifty cents or more sounds a little bell.  A quarter will get you a gong; and a dime sets off a siren.  If you walk past without giving, a camera pops-up, takes your picture, faxes it to the treasurer, and puts a flag on your membership record.  Some churches would run out of film!

This is why the Lord's chosen way of stewardship is tithing.  No matter how much or little you earn, 10% is still 10%.  God's way is equal sacrifice, not equal amounts.

We are to give cheerfully, but without drawing attention.  When we give either grudgingly or with attempt to get credit for our giving we do two bad things:

A.    We sin against those who are poor, telling them church is no place for a poor man.  And if we do that…

B.    We lose our real reward – God’s approval.

The appropriate attitude when giving is with trust that God will not only use the gift to build His kingdom, He will also supply our needs.  To give because we trust means that we have decided to affirm that it is right to obey God.

Trust is a fragile thing.  Sometimes our faith grows weak, and we doubt God's wisdom in teaching us to be givers.  We may want to hold back our giving because we don't like the Pastor's haircut, or the way the choir sings.  We're not certain the Treasurer or Finance leaders will do things the way we want.  We worry that our Conference Office might give to something we disapprove.  That is the problem – we think! 

When we begin to trust our own opinions, personal preferences, or base our giving on whether we like the personalities of leadership we move into control giving, and away from trust giving.

A high-school grad went off to college, leaving her Mom to care for her plants and goldfish until semester break.  The mother had a black-thumb and the plants died.  The goldfish didn't make it either, and Puddles the dog ran away from home.  Mom was dreading the call.  When it came, she had to admit to her daughter that the plants had all died.  Are my goldfish and Puddles O.K.?  Again the Mom had to tell the truth.  After a pause that seemed an eternity, the freshman asked, Mom, is Dad feeling OK?

Jesus said that we are to have trust in the sovereignty of God, and give; we must entrust our giving into His hand.  We are to do it as God has so plainly stated in His word:

·       The tithe belongs to the Lord

·       It belongs in the Lord's house (the local church where I belong)

·       It belongs in the Lord's house on the Lord's day (in regular worship)

·       It belongs there in the Lord's way  (cheerfully, no horn-blowing)

How can I give cheerfully if I have trouble trusting?

The famous psychiatrist, Karl Menninger has stated that one sign of mental health is the ability to release money, to give it away.  How many generous people do you know who exhibit mental instability?  It is often the stingy, controlling person who is neurotic. 

God created us to be healthy.  One way to contribute to your mental health is to practice generosity.  Jesus did, and we are supposed to be growing into His likeness.

Some people give to their church, and then criticize everything that is done.  That, my friends, is not letting go.  That is not trusting God for the outcome.  It is also opposite to the purpose of giving, which is to create in you a sense of trust for God's way, and provide a tangible way of expressing your faith.

We have choices in giving.  We can withhold; we can give grudgingly; we can draw attention to our giving...or...we can be Biblical Christians, giving with a cheerful heart, trusting God for the outcome. 
The choice is simple:  trust God, or try to control everything. 
From experience I can tell you, it’s much better to trust God! 



[i] Title image:  Alexander P Kapp, via Wikimedia Commons

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