MSG: Law or Grace Giving – 1

This message was presented on August 11, 2013 as a part of the series on Malachi and is an amplification and explanation of God’s view of giving today from Malachi 3:8-10.

What motivates someone to give? Listen to what Paul wrote the Corinthian Church,

3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing,

4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. (2 Cor. 8:3-4 NKJ)

That is phenomenal!  Note the three things about their motivation. First they were “freely willing.” Secondly, they were “imploring” Paul. And thirdly, they imploring with “much urgency!” What motivates someone to want to give like that?

The world has a different perspective.  The world says, “Go for the gusto – use up what you’ve got.”  You’ve seen the ridiculous and foolish bumper sticker that says, “I’m spending my kid’s inheritance.” It is as if what we have is for us.

You see erroneous, selfish thinking in advertisements all the time. For example, “You need it, whether “it” is a new car, new clothes, more education, or more stuff.  The world says, “Eat out, drink in, get this view, leave for travel, taste this, smell this, feel this, get to the top of life and go for the extremes.” All of these are an appeal to the flesh.

Israel fell into this worldly thinking because they put their eyes on the visible reality and wanted to have what many of the nations around them had.  Malachi admonished them and said, “So now we call the proud blessed, for those who do wickedness are raised up; they even tempt God and go free.” (Mal. 3:15 NKJ)

Israel did think about giving to God. “Oh yeah,” they likely would have said. But they likely also thought, “I need to give something, but I need to pay bills and I want to have fun like others.”  How do I know what to give?  Here are several statistical notes about giving in America.

More than one out of four [25%] American Protestants give away no money at all—”not even a token $5 per year,” say sociologists Christian Smith, Michael Emerson, and Patricia Snell in a new study on Christian giving, Passing the Plate (Oxford University Press).

Of all Christian groups, evangelical Protestants score best: only 10 percent give nothing away. Evangelicals tend to be the most generous. Thirty-six percent report that they give away less than two percent of their income. Only about 27 percent tithe. [The average is 2.5%]  Arthur Brooks, president, American Enterprise Institute

How do I know what to give?

This Sunday, we will first look at five hindrances to giving, then look at Law giving and finally look at five reasons a Spirit-filled Christian will give.

1)    Five hindrances to giving

The first hindrance to giving is a lack of understanding God. If you see God as a overbearing fun-Nazi, you will shy away from giving up anything.  You will be white-fisted, because you won’t be able to let things go. Consider the reality that the most valuable things on earth are not very important in heaven. You will be walking on streets of gold in heaven.

The second hindrance is a lack of understanding about giving. The world does something in order to get a return. There are investments for a financial return. There are studies in order to get an academic return. People exercise in order to get in shape and be trim. People manage their time to get more out of it. They organize their stuff with shelves and storage units to store more stuff. However, giving is a subtraction. That does not make sense to the fleshly mind.

The third hindrance to giving is a lack of discerning distractions. People confuse what is important in life.  People think they need a new car! “What was wrong with the old one,” I ask. Now if you spend more time in the repair shop than at home, it is time to get something new. The world is distracted by the latest gadgets, cellphones, ipods, ipads, DVDs and Blu Ray technologies. We buy, because it is there and we can. That “want” becomes a “need” and, well, a need is a need. We rationalize, reason and fool ourselves about what we need.

The fourth hindrance is a lack of biblical teaching about tithing. Too many pastors teach Law giving and put people under a guilt motivation. Most of those teachers figure if they can get people to give 10% instead of the 2%, they can really have a good budget.  That is not grace giving.

The fifth hindrance is a lack of understanding about grace giving.  With these hindrances in mind, we need to examine what “Law giving” is.

2)    Law giving

Law giving is easily understood in the Mosaic Law teaching on tithing.  However, we first need to understand that there were three tithes.

The first tithe was to support the Levitical worship ministry.  The Levites served in the tabernacle (later it would be the temple). The Levites were to maintain the Scriptures, teach the content of Scripture and take care of the temple and sacrifices.  They could have no other job or do any farming. They were to work for the Lord and rely upon what was given from the other 11 tribes. Moses wrote,

21 “Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.

 22 “Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die.

 23 “But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.

 24 “For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them,`Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.” (Num 18:21-24 NKJ)

We also saw this in Deuteronomy 14:27 during our verse by verse study of Malachi 3. The Levites received the tithe, because they were given no land. That made them dependent on the rest of the tribes, but really they were dependent on God.  Guess how they failed. Their situation was like parents who get tired of children complaining and give in or accommodate the complaining by lowering the standard. The Levites did this also as they accommodated the tribes. After years of listening to the grumblings and complaining of the tribes, the Levites accepted whatever sacrifices the people brought to them, instead of what God required. God was not happy, however,

7 “You offer defiled food on My altar. But say,`In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying,`The table of the LORD is contemptible.’

8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” says the LORD of hosts. (Mal. 1:7-8 NKJ)

God made an issue of what they were offering on the altar and said it was not according to the standard that He required. God rebuked the Levites and said what they were doing was evil.

The second tithe was to support the Festivals and Sacrifices. God was not a fun-Nazi.  On the contrary, He wanted His people to celebrate and have a great time worshiping Him.   Moses wrote,

5 “But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go.

 6 “There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.

7 “And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the LORD your God has blessed you. (Deut. 12:5-7, cf. 12:10-19 NKJ)

They were to seek from the Lord where they should make the celebration.

God would eventually choose Jerusalem. The first tithe went to the Levites. The second tithe was for everyone to enjoy at Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles and not at home. If they had a long way to travel to the place of celebration, they could sell their animals for sacrifice at home and buy what they wanted in Jerusalem to enjoy. The Levites could share this also. This second tithe is also described in Deuteronomy 14:22-26.

The third tithe was designated as support for the poor collected every third year. In other words, this tithe was only collected every three years and was kept in trust for needs that would arise.  Moses wrote,

28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates.

 29 “And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. (Deut. 14:28-29 NKJ)

God was and is not a “Fun-Nazi”! He wanted His people to come together in order to celebrate the goodness and blessing of God’s presence in their lives.  They were to offer their tithe and everyone would have been able to share equally.

Tithing is law giving.  If someone says they tithe, then they must keep the rest of the Law – all 613 commandments.  If you pick and choose, you are violating the Law.  And if you are a tither, you must give about 23% of your income.  Let’s move on to the second aspect of Law giving, the storehouse.

Store-house giving is mentioned in Malachi 3:8-10. Moses wrote,

8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, `In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.

 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.

 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. (Mal. 3:8-10 NKJ)

What is the storehouse? The storehouse was the temple in Jerusalem, where the people were to bring their tithes and especially the third tithe, so everyone could celebrate and meet their needs together.  Today, the store house is not the church, because the church is not a replacement of Israel.  Israel still exists, but God has put Israel on the back burner, until the Tribulational time.

I would like to say the church is the store house.  And in a sense it is where you should bring your offerings, missions and benevolence offerings, so that we can rejoice together and be a blessing as a church to many people.  But nowhere does it say the church is designated as the store house as the temple was designated.  Let’s not blur Scripture or misinterpret Scripture.

Are you under the Law?  Most of you will say you are not.  So why do people say you must tithe, when they do not say you should sacrifice a lamb? Malachi taught under the Mosaic Law. You are not under Law, you are under a higher standard.  You are under grace.  That does not mean you can do what you want or that you do not have to give.  You give under the higher standard of grace.  What does that mean? Next week I’ll explain the privilege and opportunity to be led by the Spirit to give according to God’s will.

The problem is that pastors use this passage and others over and over to guilt people into giving 10% to the church.  It’s a great number and pattern, but it is not biblical giving today. Let me first show a lack of New and Old Testament support.

The New Testament does not support tithing today. There are four passages that pastors use erroneously to teach tithing. They rationalize four passages in order to make the proper guilt fit, because if people only give 2% and you can guilt them into giving 10%, then what an increase in budget power!

There are three passages that describe how the Pharisees observed tithing and they were under the Law Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42; 18:9-12.  None of these teach grace giving for a believer under grace. They are a rebuke of how the Pharisees violated the command to tithe. The fourth passage is found in Hebrew 7:4-10. It describes giving related to the Tribe of Levi.  The church is not from the Tribe of Levi. The church has not replaced the tribe of Levi. There is no command to the Church Age believer to tithe.

Additionally, the Old Testament does not support tithing as a universal concept. The first passage often used is from Genesis 14:17-20. In the passage, Abraham paid a tenth of his spoils of war to the priest Melchizedek. This was not a tithe of his earnings, but of his spoils of war.  He chose to do it, not because he had to, but because he wanted to give ten percent. Abraham was about 80, and there is no record of any other level of giving. There is no connection to the church age saint. The only thing that makes sense if we wanted to be biblical would be for Christians to go to war, acquire booty and then give 10% to the church. Do you think that is what God would direct?

The second Old Testament passage is Genesis 28:20-22. Jacob was on the run from Esau and headed to see Uncle Laban. During the night, he promised God that if God brought him back, he would give ten percent. This is an interesting passage, but there is no direction from God in any revelation.  It is merely what Jacob said he would do.  It does not make a reference to God’s word, revelation or requirement.  Tithing is Law giving.  To establish an amount is to establish a law; true tithing would require 23% giving.

Before we teach Grace giving, let me describe five reasons a Spirit-filled Christian will give.

3)    Five reasons a Spirit-filled Christian will give:

First, a Spirit-filled Christian will give because he loves the Lord. How do you measure how much you love the Lord? It’s like the expression “I love you.” People use that so casually.  Sometimes they say it, but there is no manifestation of love.  Love is an action.  If someone says, “I love you,” there must be some kind of manifestation or proof of the words or the statement is not true. Jesus tested people and said,

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;

 20 “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21 NKJ)

There would be some kind of manifestation of love for God, because where you put your gifts and offerings would show where your love is.  Paul wrote to those who were rich,

17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.

 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, (1 Tim. 6:17-18 NKJ)

Secondly, a Spirit-filled Christian will give because he loves his brothers. John wrote,

17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:17 NKJ)

A Spirit-filled Christian gives because he knows there are plenty of brothers in need.

Thirdly, a Spirit-filled Christian will give when what he can see does not matter to him.  Knowing what he can see, the visible, does not matter, he keeps the matter secret.  Jesus said,

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

 2 “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

 3 “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

 4 “that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (Matt. 6:1-4 NKJ)

The right hand is poetically tied to the human spirit and wants to be generous, but the left hand is poetically tied to the flesh and wants to hold on to the charity.

Fourthly, a Spirit-filled Christian will give because giving more results in receiving more.  The more is not necessarily a tangible “more.” That is what the health and wealth false teaching says.  Notice what the verse says, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38 NKJ)  Where does it say it will be measured back?  It will be measured back “into your bosom.” In other words, it will be measured into your heart and that is the best place to receive the blessing back to our lives.

Fifthly, a Spirit-filled Christian will give because by work he can give more. Remember from Malachi, God told Israel they were robbing God and they were robbing God by not giving their tithes. Notice the similarity to what Paul wrote,

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Eph 4:28 NKJ)

Let him labor so that “he may have something to give him who has need.” The point of work is not just to provide for self, but to provide for others. God is all about blessing other people.

Next week, we will look at the following points from our outline.

4)    Grace giving principles

There are four basic grace giving principles.  These principles define what grace giving is in contrast to law giving.

5)    Grace giving:  2 Cor. 8

Then we will look at nine principles from 2 Corinthians 8.  These are prescriptive principles that provide a biblical motivation for grace giving.

6)    Grace giving:  2 Cor. 9

I will provide you the basic principles from 2 Corinthians 9, however, we will not walk through these, because of time. But the warning in the next principle will be covered because of the culture in which we live. The following warning and final point on grace living will conclude our study on giving.  Grace giving is all about the joy of Jesus Christ living in your heart, bursting forth with the desire to be a part of God’s blessing in other people’s lives.

7)    Grace giving warning Jam. 5: 1-5

8)    Grace giving living Titus 2:11-14

Brian Kluth is a pastor and giving guru. He has a great organization that helps people understand the joy of giving.  He writes,

If the “budget” is okay, many churches won’t speak on the finance/generosity subject. If a church is behind in the budget, they’ll teach on giving more as a duty and drudgery, not as a delight that God desires it to be. Budgets should be the spending plan, not the giving goal.”

Brian Kluth, founder, Maximum Generosity, and author, GiveWithJoy.org eDevotional

Giving is not how God raises money, it is how God raises His children.  Living under grace does not mean “no obligation or responsibility.” Grace giving is a privilege and opportunity.

God wants us to grow up to “grace giving.”

I love what James wrote in James 1:17,  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (Jam. 1:17 NKJ)   It all comes from the Father. Why did He give it to me? Why did He give it to you?  He gave what you have to build His kingdom.  He did not give it to me to build my kingdom or palace, but to build up His people, so that they might know the Savior, Jesus.

You have likely heard of the giving analogy of the chicken and the pig.  The chicken gives an egg every day or so.  It is committed to giving of itself.  The pig also gives, when it gives the bacon.  However, the pig is totally committed, when it gives, because it must first give of itself completely. The chicken or the pig, who was more committed? The chicken kept giving eggs, the pig gave it all when he gave the bacon.

  • Law giving is visual giving. Law giving is easy giving. You don’t have to be committed at all.  Just figure it out, and give it. There does not need to be any dependence on God. That is law giving.  That is chicken giving. That is legalism. There are some who joyfully give 10% under principles of grace.  That is different and can be Spirit-filled giving.  You will understand the difference next Sunday. If I were to say, you must give 10%, I would be telling you to go back to living under the Law.
  • Grace giving is when Jesus is more real than what you can see or touch.

What motivates giving? Remember what Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 8:3-4,

3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing,

4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. (2 Cor. 8:3-4 NKJ)

When Jesus is more real than what you can see or touch.  When you are worshiping Jesus Christ, when you are serving the Lord Jesus, when the invisible reality of  my Shepherd Jesus is more real than what you can see, then giving will become like the Macedonians.  We have some people like that at Grace.

If you can see it, it is not important.  If you can touch it, it will not be here for very long. If you can smell it, it is temporary.  If you can hear it, it won’t be around forever. Consider instead Jesus Christ.  The writer of Hebrews tells us, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2 NKJ) Jesus was so full of joy, it overcame the shame and suffering that He would endure for our sake.  He was so looking forward to the potential of drawing all people to Himself.  He provided the way by dying on the cross for the sins of the whole world, so that whosoever would believe in Him might have salvation and enjoy the fellowship of the Godhead forever and all the elect from eternity past who took the gift of salvation and joined the family of God, because of the eternal work of God’s Spirit.  When I realize I am redeemed from the blood of the Lamb, I get to enjoy all blessings in Him, and my white-knuckles transform to become full of joy in the richness of Jesus Christ to bless others.

Message Based Discussion Questions

1)    When did you first learn about giving to God? What were you taught?

Digging Deeper:

2)    How many commandments were put on the tablets that Moses brought down from Mt. Horeb? ______________ Did these commandments emphasize what not to do, or exhortations to do right, or admonitions to remain dependent on the Lord? Why that emphasis?

3)    Do you sacrifice animals to worship God today? ____________. Why do people choose to follow some things from the Old Testament, but not others?

4)    Does the Bible state that God told Abraham to give 10% to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:17-18)?  ________________. Is the passage descriptive or prescriptive?  What is the difference?

Making application from the message:

5)    How would you help a person who says you have to give 10% to the church see that they are not Scriptural?

6)    What motivates a person to give like the Macedonian Church of 2 Cor. 8:1-4 (This will be easier to answer after the second message on “Giving”)?

7)    How will you avoid the rebuke God gave Israel in Malachi 3:8-10?

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