Give Your Best
(Excerpt from the sermon)
Sermon Series: All In
Tithe is one tenth of your total income, given at your first opportunity. What is the offering then? The offering is what you give above and beyond what is required because you're motivated out of gratitude and out of the opportunity to play a more effective role in the eternal kingdom. So you're giving from way down here, in your heart. It's not enough for you to give what is required. God communicates to us that, because He's the owner, He has a legal claim to the first fruits of the tithe, the 10% of everything that we have. But for those of us who are inspired by the reality that we can live our lives for something greater than ourselves, that we can invest our lives in something that really matters, thus increasing our own personal worth, in a pragmatic point of view, obviously not with the spirit of God (we are saved by grace through faith, we get that), but enriching and increasing the value of our lives and our value to God as far as His kingdom goes, then we go beyond the tithe into what is described as the offering.
So in 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul says to Christ followers that he knows they have a heart to be part of this kingdom and to play an effective role in it, an important role. Paul says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Now let me tell you why this is a very difficult passage for some of us to take: because Paul is assuming that we have a passion to reap a great harvest. If we have a passion to reap a great harvest, that means we're going to sow generously.
The very difficult concept here is that some of us, in fact many of us, have never ever given God an offering in our whole lives because to give God an offering, you first have to give Him the tithe. It's above and beyond. If you've never given God the tithe, then you've never given Him an offering. Now think about that. Think about how every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above, yet you and I have never given Him an offering because we've never been faithful in the tithe. 2 Corinthians 9 says that God loves a cheerful giver. I've had people say to me, “Well Jeff, that's why I don't give because when I give I'm not cheerful.” My response is this: giving is an act of the will. If you do something as an act of the will long enough, it will affect and impact the heart and the emotion.
In this whole idea of the tithe, God is saying, “I am telling you that I have a legal claim. I have a legal claim to the first fruits of your life, the tithe belongs to Me.” If it didn't, God wouldn't accuse them of robbing Him. You cannot take something from somebody and call it theft, if it doesn't belong to you, it actually belongs to God. He's even saying, “Look, you got to realize that the tithes are not even yours to do anything with. I'm just asking you to bring to Me what I've already declared as Mine.” The tithe is the only area in life where God says, “Try Me.” I love this. In Malachi 3:10 He says, “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts.” I love this because this phrase in the Hebrew is without parallel in any other part of the Bible.
Let me describe it to you, this is one of my favorite illustrations. If you know anything about warriors and knights, they used to fight sword fights and they would wear these thick, thick gloves to protect their hands during battle. Those gloves were called gauntlets. They were steel mesh gloves to protect their hands. So when you got into an argument and you were angry, you'd take off that glove, that gauntlet, and you'd throw it down. This was you declaring, “Hey, I know your insult. I'm challenging you to a duel, you and me, one-on-one.” Then he would take off the glove, throw down the gauntlet, and he would say, “You want some of me? You don't think I know what you're implying in my life? You don't think I recognize your insult? Come on.” Then he would say, “Try me and throw down the gauntlet.” God is saying to you and me, His people, “Now, you don't think you can trust Me. You don't think I can make good on My promise. You don't think I see what you give and what you make. You don't think I know what My part is and what your part is. Let's go, you and Me, one-on-one. Let's get it on right now.” But God is not doing it because He wants to punish you. He's doing it because He wants you to be able to live the fruitful life, the abundant life that He's called you to live.
You can’t ask God to pour out His blessings when you're in direct violation. So God says, “Trust Me, you won't lose in this.” You will not lose. It's part of God's economic plan. “You obey Me in this. There's a direct correlation between your obedience and My willingness to bless you.” But the problem is it's because you don't understand that God's motivation in this is to protect you. The absence of God's protection on your finances comes as a serious consequence to disobedience. In Malachi 3:11, He says, “‘I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the Lord Almighty.” So He says, if you decide to obey Me in this, not only am I going to bless you, but I'm going to prevent the curse. I'm going to protect you from the curse of the evil one.
Here's the beauty of this: When I'm tithing, there is a peace in knowing that when hard times come, I am not reaping the whirlwind of my own disobedience to God. Financial hard times still come, but when they do I know that if I'm in direct obedience to God, then I know I can wait for God to deliver.
God tells us in this whole passage that stealing from God means the loss of blessing. God is a wise investor. He's not an enabler. He's wonderfully patient. And I love it when He says, “I, the Lord, don't change, so I’ve not destroyed you.” God is going to do whatever He has to do in our lives to get us to that point. But He has great patience. Then I love how the passage finishes. It tells us in Malachi 3:12 that, “‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Do you hear what God said? God said, you know what? I actually want to bless you, and I'm talking financially as well. I want to give you (yes, there are other blessings, but I believe God also means this), and there's no guarantee, but I believe God also wants to bless us so that our fields will be fruitful when we bring the first fruits in order that He may demonstrate to the world that when you live your life for My purposes, the blessings of heaven will come down upon you.
Now, I'm not saying we're all going to get rich. Please don't put words in my mouth. I'm simply saying that God gives this legal claim to the first fruits of our lives and then says, if you deny Me that, why would you expect Me to open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing on you? You think that by withholding, you're protecting but, in reality, you're destroying the potential of God's blessings to permeate your life.
The tithe is the only area in life where God says, “Try Me.” He throws down the gauntlet and says, “Stop ignoring Me. I want to be faithful to you, but you've got to obey Me.” There's a relationship between obedience and blessing. Tithing positions me to receive blessings from God. This is where He will open up the windows of heaven. Which leads us to this question: Where do we start? Here's what tends to happen when I give a message like this, people say, “Pastor Jeff, I'm way too far behind now. No, I can't do anything, so I'm not going to do anything.”
Now, wait a second, when you become a Christian, and you've struggled with your temper, does it get healed in one day? No. The Holy Spirit starts transforming you from the inside out and you come to a time when you realize: I'm dealing with my temper better. Do you become sexually pure overnight when you become a Christ follower? Absolutely not. If you've got addictions that you know are not appropriate, it takes a time of healing and transformation and discipleship. Well, guess what? Giving is no different. This is a matter of discipleship and a matter of a transformation of your heart.
So when you become a Christian, it's not like on day one you're going to be doing this, although that would be incredibly wise. But start somewhere. Don't just go away. “It's too big. Jeff said that I've never given God an offering because I'm not giving Him a tithe. So I'm already lost. I'm just going to take my chances.” No, if everybody just started somewhere, if everybody said, you know what? I've gotten myself in a position where I'm so financially strapped because I've pursued things that really don't matter that much, that now I don't know if I can do this, start somewhere. Try God in this. Start at 5%. Start there and say, God, I know now, my eyes have been opened. You have a legal claim to 10%, so God, I'm going to give 5%. Bless me so that I can give 10%, and then give 10%. Don't back out on God. “God bless me so that I can continue to give offerings.” Start somewhere. Don't just go out of here and do the same old thing you've been doing forever. Start somewhere. If God sees you making that effort, it touches His heart. He's a patient and loving God.
You might not be able to get there all at once, but start somewhere. It's like when you're running a marathon. I'm not a great long distance runner, but I trained to run a marathon with my father-in-law once, and I remember coming and running with him. There’s a point where you hit a wall and you just can't go one step further. I remember my father-in-law running beside me and saying, look, don't try to finish the whole thing. Pick a spot about a hundred yards in front. Run there. Tell your mind you're only going to run there. Then pick another spot and run to that. That's how I finished the last three miles of the marathon. One step at a time, hoping to achieve the goal.
You can do this. We can do this together. Think about it. If we all get on board and we go all in with this, think about the life change among our young adults, among our high schoolers, among our children's area. Think about the workers we could continue to have and the work we can continue to do with God's pantry. Think of what we're doing in post-Christian Europe and Africa, in Kenya, in Zimbabwe, in Mexico, and on and on it goes. If we go all in, this little church in San Dimas is going to change the world.
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