MSG: Law or Grace Giving – 2

This message was presented on August 18, 2013 as an addendum to the Malachi Series. 

Giving USA, a non-profit foundation that studies philanthropy in the United States, in its 2008 report found 33.4% of estimated total giving, $103.32 billion, went to houses of worship and denominational organizations in 2007.

  • Five percent of mainline American Christians overall (8% of all Protestants and 2% of Catholics) tithe, according to a 2008 study of giving by the Barna Group, in Ventura, Calif. Protestants gave their church an average of $1,705 per household and Catholics gave $984, while those in non-Christian faiths gave an average $905, Barna found.  [Why make an issue of the tithe in this statistic? Because it shows that 95% give less than 10% to God.]
  • Six in 10 people gave something to their house of worship last year, according to the 2008 Baylor Religion Survey, based on 1,700 U.S. adults, released in September.
  • More than half of donors (55%) say they donated an amount of $500 or less. Specifically, roughly one in five (22%) noted the total value of their donations as $100 or less, while 33% gave between $100 and $500, 20% donated a total value of $500 up to $1,000, 12% contributed between $1,000 and $2,500, 8% offered $2,500 up to $5,000, and 5% estimated their donated total as more than $5,000.

A person can use numbers and statistics to their advantage.  My point of using the numbers is to show that people believe they need over 97% for themselves based on a 52,000.00 average United States income. How do I know what to give?

Last week we looked at the first three points on your outline.  You can see the principles below. First, we looked at the “Five hindrances to giving.” I did not bring up many issues like selfishness, because they are too simplistic to mention.  Instead we saw a lack of understanding in five areas.  People do not understand God. They too often think of God as a fun-Nazi.  We saw that is absolutely false. Remember the third point regarding distractions.  There are so many opportunities, gadgets and ways to spend money and we find them all. Also note the fourth point on previous teaching about tithing.  Too many teachers have taken the easy route and just taught what they have been taught, or they impose their theology on the Scripture, or they do not rightly divide the truth and actually put people under the Law by wrongly teaching that we are supposed to tithe.  If you were not here last Sunday, please get the message off the church’s web site or off my shepherdingtruth.com website.

As we looked at Law giving, we saw that if someone were to tithe, they were actually supposed to give 23%.  There were three tithes and to say you only give 10% is to misunderstand the Old Testament.  Furthermore to say you tithe and not sacrifice animals is to be a “ Smorgasbord Christian,” which means “I get to pick and choose what I want to believe.” If you are trying to keep part of the Law, you have to keep it all. But God removed the Christian today from the Law.  The Law was imposed on Israel, not the Church. We also saw the passages regarding tithing in the New and Old Testaments do NOT support tithing for the Church Age believer.

Then we looked at five reasons a Spirit-filled Christian will give. First, the Spirit-filled Christian is so grateful for his redemption and loves the Lord so much that he willingly gives to the Lord’s work. Secondly, he sees the needs of others and gives so others can be discipled and helped.  Thirdly, he looks at the things he has and recognizes that they do not matter compared to using what he has to help others know Jesus, so he gives. Fourthly, he gives because he realizes the spiritual blessing multiplied back to himself as he gives. And fifthly, he keeps on working and working harder, so he’ll make more, not for himself, but in order to help others know Jesus through giving to the church.  Here are the first three points in the outline:

1)    Five hindrances to giving

a)    Lack of understanding God

b)    Lack of understanding about giving

c)    Lack of discerning distractions

d)    Lack of understanding previous teaching about tithing

e)    Lack of understanding grace giving

2)    Law giving

a)    Tithing – three tithes

i)      Supporting the Levitical worship ministry Num. 18:21-24. Supporting the festivals and sacrifices Deut. 12:5-7

ii)     Support for the poor every 3rd year Deut. 14:28-29.

b)    Store-house giving Malachi 3:8-10

c)    New Testament lack of support.Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42; 18:9-12; Heb. 7:4-10

d)    Old Testament lack of support Gen. 14:17-20; 28:20-22

3)    Five reasons a Spirit-filled Christian will give

a)    He loves the Lord   Matt. 6:19-21; 1 Tim. 6:17-18.

b)    He loves others   1 Jn. 3:17

c)    When what he can see, the tangible things, do not matter to him   Matt. 6:1-4

d)    Because giving more results in receiving more   Luke 6:38

e)    Because by work he can give more   Eph. 4:28

Now we shift in our study from Law to Grace giving.  What is Grace giving? There are four important aspects applied to Grace giving and then we’ll amplify them as we walk through 2 Corinthians 8.

4)    Grace giving

The first truth regarding Grace giving is that the motivation and decision is made from the Spirit. The Christian must be Spirit-filled and not under a standard of the Law or of the flesh. Paul wrote, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal. 5:18 NKJ) In other words, Paul is assuming they are led by the Spirit, so they are not under the Law.  You are not to live by a set amount. Rather, God want you led by the Holy Spirit to choose to be freely willing, imploring for the opportunity with much urgency.

That attitude was seen in the early church during the initial persecutions.  Many people lost their homes and livelihood and people were motivated to give so that others would have no need. Luke wrote in Acts,

32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,  35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. (Acts 4:32-35 NKJ)

They gave as they were led without a mandatory amount designated. Believers are not under Law, but under Grace. God does not want you limited to only 10% giving. God the Holy Spirit may lead you to give much more, because you do not need to have more than what you need.

The second truth is that Grace giving is deliberate.  Children are taught to follow rules, adults are given parameters and adjust themselves to fit into and influence society for good. Paul wrote,

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. (1 Cor. 16:1-2 NKJ)

The “first day of the week” shows the deliberate nature of Grace giving. This is as important as loving your spouse, teaching truth to others, or maintaining order in worship. Consider specifically how much God desires you to give. Each person or family unit must consider what to give.

The third truth is that Grace giving is done privately.  A Spirit-filled Christian sets aside so he is ready to give and he does not do it for any show. We saw from Matthew to not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.

The fourth truth is that Grace giving determines the amount proportionately from the increase. The amount may be 20, 30, 50, or 90% as the Spirit directs. When I was a boy, there was a building contractor, Mr. Bacchus, in St. Paul, Minnesota, who gave 90%.  He lived on 10%, because that is all he needed.

These are the four basic elements of Grace giving. First, it must be Spirit-led. Secondly, it must be done deliberately, not passively or thoughtlessly. Thirdly, it must be done privately, between you and the Lord, not for show. And fourthly, the Christian will give a determined proportion of his increase.

So let us look at Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and amplify these four principles.  We will go through them rather quickly, so gain an understanding of the main ideas.

5)    Grace giving of 2 Corinthians 8.  Grace giving:

a)    Gives even in poverty

Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. (2 Cor. 8:1-2 NKJ)

Notice, that even in a great trial of affliction, they gave liberally. Notice the abundance of their joy!

b)    Looks for the opportunity to give

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)

Do you see those three unusual things? First, they were freely willing. Secondly, they were imploring Paul. And thirdly, they implored with much urgency. How did that happen? That answer is found in the next principle.

c)    Commits first to the Lord

5 And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. (2 Cor. 8:5 NKJ)

When you give yourself to the Lord, Grace giving becomes easy.  You love the Lord, you love others, the things you can see do not matter to you anymore and you want to give, because people matter more than things or activities. You realize “I am in the Lord’s hands.  All I have belongs to Him.”

d)    Abounds in giving 2 Cor. 8:6-7

6 So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. 7 But as you abound in everything– in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us– see that you abound in this grace also. (2 Cor. 8:6-7 NKJ)

Grace giving is one additional area that you abound in, because Jesus is more real to you than what you can see physically.

e)    Proves your love

8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. (2 Cor. 8:8 NKJ)

Grace giving proves that love is genuine or sincere.  Love becomes far more than a simple “I love you.”  It puts traction to the feet and evidence to the words. How do you prove that you love someone?  Many people say, “I love you,” but there is nothing to show for it. They do not spend time with you, do not say anything to you, do not do anything for you, and do not give you anything.  It only means, “I’ll try not to hurt you.” True love is action. God showed His love as John wrote, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 NKJ)

f)     Follows Jesus’ pattern

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. (2 Cor. 8:9 NKJ)

Jesus was not born in a palace or to a wealthy family.  Joseph and Mary had no connections to have a room. They stayed in a stable for delivery. Enough money would have bought a room. Jesus continued to live in poverty that we might become rich unto spiritual life!

g)    Can include a pledge

10 And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago;  11 but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. (2 Cor. 8:10-11 NKJ)

You may pledge an amount and then not give it. What you decide is between you and the Lord. Grace giving is wisdom giving, not based on emotional appeals or emotional pledges.

h)    Willingly gives to the Lord

12 For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. (2 Cor. 8:12 NKJ)

Grace giving does not give grudgingly, but willingly. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:7, So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7 NKJ).  King David is a wonderful example of one who willingly gave to the Lord in 1 Chronicles 29.

i)      Shares for the sake of others

13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; 14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack– that there may be equality. 15 As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.” (2 Cor. 8:13-15 NKJ)

God may give directly. God may give through job bonuses, good health, fewer car repairs, good returns on investments, or creative ideas that turn into great gain. God may use other believers for their needs. If you lost your job, you are not expected to keep giving. Grace giving is based on what you receive, not on what you have.

We do not have time to cover Grace giving from 2 Corinthians 9, but here is the outline for that chapter and you can study this at home and hopefully grow in your love for Jesus Christ.

6)    Grace giving:  2 Corinthians 9:

a)    Sows in trust of a return 2 Cor. 9:6. It may be temporal or eternal.  You do not give so that you get back more physically.  God may bless you with different returns. He may give you friends, health, time, ease, opportunity, but He is sovereign.  Do not roll the dice. As you sow, you will reap

b)    Gives from the heart 2 Cor. 9:7a. You don’t give based on the Law, or legalism, or any other measuring device.

c)    Gives cheerfully 2 Cor. 9:7b The word means hilarious giving.

d)    Trusts God’s provision 2 Cor. 9:8-11. You do not know how God is going to bless.

e)    Multiples worship 2 Cor. 9:12. The giver thanks God for the ability to give and the receiver thanks God for the gift given.

f)     Gives glory to God 2 Cor. 9:13 This glory is seen in two ways. 1) from the person who gives and 2) from the person who receives.

g)    Creates bonds between believers in thanks to God 2 Cor. 9:14

h)    Reminds us of God’s indescribable gift 2 Cor. 9:15

Next, there are at least six hindrances to Grace giving.

7)    Hindrances to Grace Giving

A first hindrance to Grace giving is that giving is measurable. It’s not like serving or comforting a person, or even visiting a person. How do you measure how much a person serves, or the value of the comfort or the worth of a visit? Measurements easily put guilt on people, who are growing in that area. They put the focus back on what is visible, rather than on the invisible reality of Jesus.

A second hindrance to Grace giving is measuring obedience. Measuring our giving often puts guilt on people.  So by measuring obedience it can discourage, yet should encourage, because of the abundance of giving.

A third hindrance to Grace giving is pastors may think they can convict people. Pastors may get in the way of the Holy Spirit.  People may be convicted, but for the wrong reasons. Some people try to suppress that Law giving, but end up with more guilt.

A fourth hindrance to Grace giving is people do not want to feel bad. People may give the “Law” amount, but it may be different than what the Holy Spirit may be convicting to give. Unfortunately, they will feel worse when they are not led by the Spirit. So, they think the solution is, “Preacher, do not discuss it. I do not want to feel bad.” The reality is the fifth hindrance.

A fifth hindrance to Grace giving is people want things. The Bible calls that ‘covetousness.’   Israel was deep into that trap as has been seen in Malachi 3:15.

A sixth hindrance to Grace giving is tax deductions. I will do everything I can to get a tax deduction, because that is just good stewardship and is allowed by law. If you can get a tax deduction, you should get one, because then you can give even more money to the Lord’s work rather than to Caesar. But a tax deduction should not be a hindrance to giving. God can multiply your gift without one!

Now, just like the warning that Malachi was to Israel before 400 years of silence, there is a warning to Christians today.

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

James addresses the wealthy of his generation. There were many who were “haves” and they employed many “have nots.” James wrote,

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. 4 Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as  in a day of slaughter. (Jam. 5:1-5 NKJ)

Those with wealth in James’ day used their wealth for themselves, rather than being a blessing to others. James warns that all the wealth will be corrupted and no help in the last days.  It will be worthless. All the luxurious living will only be a bigger sacrifice on the day of the end. God does not give to us to spend on ourselves. He gives for us to enjoy, but to mainly bless others in good works toward others (1 Tim. 6:17-19).

So, what is the Grace standard? It is Grace giving living.

9)    Grace giving living Titus 2:11-14

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Tit. 2:11-14 NKJ)

Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness – selfishness and self-importance. Grace teaches us to deny worldly lusts or desires, that is the comforts of life that we think we deserve.  Grace teaches that it is better to give than to receive.  Grace teaches us to live soberly with a complete awareness of Jesus Christ, rather than trusting in the riches or comforts of this world.  Why? Because Grace teaches us to look to the blessed hope, which is the coming of Jesus, Who gave Himself for us. He gave up his glorious riches to live a life of poverty, so we could have His riches in heaven. His model is what drives us to be zealous for good works.  Good works that are freely willing, imploring for the opportunity and imploring with much urgency.  Do you know Jesus in that way?

When Jesus is your focus, grace giving happens.

Take your eyes off of Jesus, and miss the blessing.

 

I have mentioned that Jesus lived in poverty.  You might be thinking, “That was Jesus.”  I do not believe God is asking you to give up everything; but He may to a few. What He is asking is for you to set your eyes on the invisible reality of Jesus and prove to the world that the invisible reality of Jesus is more real than the visible reality of what you can see, taste, touch, hear or smell.  Is Jesus real to you  in that way?

The Bible teaches that God owns it all and we’re called to be good stewards of all that God gives us, including our time, abilities, passions and money. C.S. Lewis wrote the right idea, “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”

Michael Card’s song “Things We Leave Behind:
Every heart needs to be set free
From possessions that hold it so tight
‘Cause freedom’s not found in the things that we own
It’s the power to do what is right
With Jesus, our only possession,
Then giving becomes our delight
And we can’t imagine the freedom we find
From the things we leave behind

Message Based Discussion Questions

  1. How were you taught about giving when growing up?

Digging Deeper:

  1. What did the widow give in the treasury (Luke 21:1-4)? __________ What point was Jesus making?
  2. In the passage of Luke 21:1-4, who was it that Jesus was talking about and to? ______________ and ____________. Why do you suppose Jesus did not say anything about how the Pharisees were not good stewards of the money, because of the wickedness of the temple worship?
  3. Read 1 Tim. 6:17-18. It says, “God gives us richly to ______________. What do you suppose is the best way to enjoy what He gives (cf. 1 Tim. 6:18)?

Making application from the message:

  1. How will you put the principles of “grace giving” into practice? What is the most important perspective?
  2. How would you disciple someone who asks you how much to give?
  3. How then should our living be affected by our giving?

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