These are God given opportunities, but they cannot be accomplished alone. We need each other and we are completely dependent on army of volunteers who give faithfully of their time and finances and skills to make Warfield Church work. Thank you for all your help and support. God is building His church.
An Overview of Christian Giving:
Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Madonna, Abba and most recently Jessie J sang about it. For most ministers it continues to be an awkward subject to talk about, yet the bible gives 2,350 verses to the subject! It plays a significant part in our lives and is often cited as the number one reason couples argue. It is, of course, the subject of money.
Stephen Covey in his book seven habits of highly effective people commented,
"The way we see things effects the way we think and the way we act."
Dave Ramsey comments, “the majority of people use money to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like." It is a way of viewing money that says, this is mine, I earned it, I accumulated it, I can do what I want with it. It is very much a characteristic of 21st century culture. But it is a view in direct opposition to those 2,350 verses. The biblical pattern is clear, “Every good gift comes from God (James 1:17)”.
It’s like a parent who works long and hard to construct the perfect birthday present for his child. He loses sleep as the birthday approaches because he wants to finish it. The finishing touch happens in the early hours of the morning of his son’s birthday. But all the sleepless nights are soon washed away with the joy and excitement he sees in his child’s eyes as he takes hold of that present the following morning. It is the perfect gift. But before lunch time the parent hears the words that cause such pain. The child’s older brother has asked to share the new toy. The child response is, “no this is mine!”
The bible presents our finances as a gift from God that we can use for his glory. In fact, the bible goes further and makes it clear, “It is God who gives us the ability to make wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:16). Yet we are so quick to say that the gift in “mine” and will not be shared. The New Testament gives this instruction, "Tell them to use their money to do good so they become rich in good works and generous to those in need," (1 Timothy 6:18)
"The way we see things effects the way we think and the way we act."
All our money, our toys, funds, clothes, gadgets and retirement plans are not our own, they are God's. Part of this means releasing a significant part of this treasure back into the master’s work. Now let's keep in perspective how much we have. If you work from age 25 to 65 and you earn £25,000 a year then before God you are a steward of a £1,000,000. What will you do with that £1,000,000?
Stephen King writes books. Some quite scary books! And it has made him rich. Very rich. But several years ago he was involved in a car crash and having been thrown from his vehicle through the windscreen and lying there in the mud with various bones protruding through his seriously damaged body he had an epiphany. He realised that the MasterCard in his pocket could not help him. If he were to die right there he would not be able to take a single cent with him. So he made a resolution. If he recovered he would make his money work to do good. He would give it to those things that would last beyond him. He shows Christian values without being a Christian. In his autobiography he wrote:
We have the power to help, the power to change. And why should we refuse? Because we're going to take it with us? Please. Giving is a way of taking the focus off the money we make and putting it back where it belongs - on the lives we lead, the families we raise, the communities that nurture us.
Job put it a little more succinctly when he said, "we entered this world naked and empty handed and we depart the same way. (Ecclesiastes 5:15)" But what can we do in between, what can we put our resources to. Stephen King concluded, “I ask that you begin giving and continue as you begin. You’ll find that in the end, you’ll have more than you ever had, and did more good than you ever dreamed.”
So we are talking about money, but really we are talking about giving. And I would like to suggest to you that giving happens on three different levels.
Level 1 Basic Level - Getting on the ladder
Lots of you responded last year to this area. I encouraged you to get on the ladder and many of you did.
If you are not giving then the encouragement is to get on the ladder with £20 a month – and then gift aid it so it is worth 25% more and do it by standing order so the treasurer knows it’s coming each month and we can then budget properly into the coming year. That’s basic level giving. You get on the ladder when you recognise you can’t take it with you when you recognise the need to begin giving.
So basic level giving involves returning an initial gift to God in a way that is identifiable and accountable and should be in relation to our income. So proportional giving.
But to move towards the next level, or approach the next level, the amount given should be in proportion to our income. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 says, “Now about the collection for God’s people on the first day of every week each one of you should put aside a sum of money in keeping with his income.” So if your income is £2,000 a week, then £20 a month may be too little and you should consider giving more. But if you are a student and really your income in zero, then maybe £20 a month is too high a stretch.
Level 2 Obedience Level – Tithing
But the next level is reached when we begin to understand the biblical basis for giving and that interesting word called, tithing.
The Principle of Tithing
"A tithe of everything belongs to the Lord." (Leviticus 27:34)
And this is how that worked: There were 12 tribes of Israel. And one of those tribes, the Levites, were set apart as priests, to maintain the temple. So eleven Israelite tribes giving 10% to the one tribe. 110% went to the Levites and 90% to the other tribes. The Levites would use this 110% to live and to maintain the temple.
There is an argument that suggests that this was a form of taxation and today we too pay our taxes to the government. That’s true and of course, we are dealing with a point in history where the state, and what is in effect the church, were the same. But there will be countless times when Israel will be under the control of other nations….Babylon, Persia and in New Testament times Rome, but still the nation of Israel were expected to pay their tithe to the temple.
it is much better to live on 90% with God’s blessing than 100% without!
These are values we should teach our children and our young people. It's good to learn this early. It was John Rockefeller who said, “I would never be able to tithe on the first million dollars if I never learnt to tithe on my first salary cheque that was $1.50 a week. He concluded, it is much better to live on 90% with God’s blessing than 100% without!
The Principle of “First Fruits.”
This practice has been remembered, albeit in a diluted form, in what has become our Harvest Festival Service. The idea was that the first of our crops would be brought to the temple as an offering, likewise the first of our flock. It’s the principle whereby we may give a portion of our bonus or the some of the royalties of a new book etc.
And there are examples of special offerings being taken. When Moses built the tabernacle (the forerunner of the temple - Exodus 35), the people were encouraged to freely bring offerings to pay for its construction, in fact, they got to the point where the offerings were so considerable Moses had to ask the people to stop bringing their offering!! We see a similar pattern repeated in 1 Kings 6 in the building of Solomon's Temple. We have had several gift days in the last few years. Firstly for the planting of our new congregation into Priestwood and secondly for reordering St Michael’s.
Giving to the Poor and Needy
There are on-going commandments throughout the Old and New Testament that we should give freely to the poor (Exodus 22:21, Proverbs 13:41, Isaiah 10:1-3, Jeremiah 5:28, Ezekiel 16:49, Amos 2:6-7, Zechariah 7:10, Malachi 3:5 ..... .... and the list goes on! But the whole flow of scripture is eloquently summed up by John when he writes:
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (1 John 3:17)
Level 3 – Sacrificial Giving
So Level 2 is about keeping God’s laws, tithing, first fruits, special offerings, caring for the poor.
But there is one more level that is summed up for us in Luke 20 is the lovely story of the widow's mite. She gave out of what she had, she gave out of poverty. But it’s so much more than that – the widow gave, “all that she had.” It’s a hard level this. The rich man gave what he felt he could afford. The widow gave sacrificially. She would have gone hungry that day. It was the widow Jesus commended, despite the fact that she gave less! It was C.S. Lewis who wrote:
Christian giving is about more than giving what we could easily do without.
And this is an interesting level. This is the only area where God says, “Test Me!” No really! Test me in your giving he says, and see if I don’t pour out my blessing on you, pushed down, shaken together and running over. So the claim is that those who tithe have more left at the end of the month than those who don’t! But this is the one area you have been challenged to test God in!
Maybe that’s why John Wesley who said, “Make us much as you can, save as much as you can and give as much as you can.”
So what are we suggesting?
LEVEL 1 – Getting on the ladder
Let me encourage you to make a start. Maybe start with a smaller percentage and build up as God honours your giving.
Where possible, if you’re a UK taxpayer, gift aid your giving. This means the Government will give us an extra 25% of whatever you gave, at no cost to you.
Give by standing order.
LEVEL 2 – Tithe
LEVEL 3 – Become a Generous Giver