Committed to Giving!

by jacobjuncker

This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, October 21, 2012.

7Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’

8 Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In your tithes and offerings! 9You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! 10Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.

Malachi 3:7-10, New Revised Standard Version

24 ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:24-34, New Revised Standard Version

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear, that together we might learn and be inspired to live your Word in the world.  Amen.

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This week we’re continuing our series on commitment.  As United Methodists we believe that every committed person of faith is called to uphold the mission of God through the local church by freely and fully offering their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.  When everyone is upholding the mission of God in these ways, we believe that world will become a better place transforming, by the grace of God, into the Kingdom of God, Heaven here on earth.

Two weeks ago, we talked about committing to praying regularly and intentionally for 30 minutes a day so that our souls might be nourished and our lives given direction.  Last week, we talked about the necessity of being fully present—with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind.  You were encouraged to be fully present with God, a community of faith, and the world God so loved and came to save.  We talked about committing to being present with a community of faith by attending worship 48 weeks a year; and, by attending Bible Study 26 weeks a year.  This week, we shift our gaze toward our resources.  How committed are we to giving so that the mission of God might be fulfilled—so that God’s reign of love and grace might be revealed and experienced here in Culver and around the world?

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If you were squeamish about coming to church today because every time you come to church the preachers asking for money, then prepare to squirm.  Today, we’re going to be talking about money—how we earn it, spend it, and give it.

Why is it important for us to talk about money—how we earn it, spend it and give it?

Because the average American household has consumer debt totally $15,325—this does not include indebtedness due to a home mortgage or student loans.[1]

Why is it important for us to talk about money—how we earn it, spend it and give it?

Because the average American is spending 110% of their annual income.

Why is it important for us to talk about money—how we earn it, spend it and give it?

Because the average American has decreased their charitable giving as a percentage of income every year since 1968.[2]

Why is it important to talk about money—how we earn it, spend it and give it?  because Jesus talked more about money and possessions than any other topic.  Why? because Jesus knew the God-like power of money.  Money can very easily become for us an idol.  And,

Everyday we let the idols of this world dictate what we do and how we do it. Money and greed often consume us. We love having [money], and hate giving it up. We too frequently put our love of money before our love of God, and Matthew 6:24 plainly states ‘[we] cannot serve both God and money.[3]

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The right use of money is of the utmost importance to the Christian, yet it is a subject given too little attention. Wealth has often been regarded by poets and philosophers as a source of evil and yet the fault lies, not with money, but with those who use it. Indeed, money should be regarded as a gift of God for the benefits that it brings in ordering the affairs of [society] and the opportunities it offers for doing good. In the hands of God’s children, money is food for the hungry, clothing for the naked and shelter for the stranger. With money we can care for the widow and the fatherless, defend the oppressed, meet the need of those who are sick or in pain.

It is therefore most urgent that God’s people know how to make use of their money for God’s glory. All the necessary instructions can be condensed into three simple rules:

  • GAIN ALL YOU CAN
  • SAVE ALL YOU CAN
  • GIVE ALL YOU CAN

Gain all you can

With this first rule, we sound like children of the world, and it is our bounden duty to do this. There are, however, limits to this rule. We should not gain money at the expense of life or health. No sum of money, however large, should induce us to accept employment which would injure our bodies. Neither should we begin (or continue in) any business which deprives us of the food and sleep that we need.  If our reason or experience shows that a job is unhealthy for us, then we should leave it as soon as possible even if this means that our income is reduced.

What is true of ourselves is equally true of our neighbor. We should not “gain all we can” by causing injury to another, whether to his trade, his body or his soul. We should not sell our goods below their market price nor should we entice away, or receive, the workers’ that a brother has need of. It is quite wrong to make a living from selling those things which would harm a neighbor’s health…

With these restrictions, it is every Christian’s duty to observe this first rule: ‘Gain all you can’. Gain all you can by honest work with all diligence. Lose no time in silly diversions and do not put off until tomorrow what may be done today. Do nothing by halves; use all the common sense that God has given you and study continually that you may improve on those who have gone before you. Make the best of all that is in your hands.

Save all you can

This is the second rule. Money is a precious gift. It should not be wasted on [trivial things]. Do not spend money on luxury foods, but be content with simple things that your body needs. Ornaments too, whether of the body, house or garden are a waste and should be avoided. Do not spend in order to gratify your vanity or to gain the admiration of others. The more you feed your pride in this way, the more it will grow within you.

Gain all you can.  Save all you can: not that you might hoard it away, but that you might be generous.

[Be generous:] give all you can

Observing the first two rules is far from enough. Storing away money without using it is to throw it away. You might just as well cast your money into the [Lake Max] as keep it in the bank. Having gained and saved all you can, then [be generous:] give all you can.

Why is this? You do not own the wealth that you have. It has been entrusted to you for a short while by the God who brought you into being. All belongs to [God]. Your wealth is to be used for [God] as a holy sacrifice, made acceptable through Jesus Christ.

If you wish to be a good steward of that which God has given to you on loan the rules are simple enough. First provide sufficient food and clothing for yourself and your household. If there is a surplus after this is done, then use what remains for the good of your Christian brothers and sisters. If there is still a surplus, then do good to all people, as you have the opportunity. If at any time you have a doubt about any particular expenditure, ask yourself honestly:

  1. Will I be acting, not as an owner, but as a steward of the Lord’s goods?
  2. Am I acting in obedience to the word of God?
  3. Is this expense a sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ?

These, then, are the simple rules for the Christian use of money. Gain all you can, without bringing harm to yourself or neighbor. Save all you can by avoiding waste and unnecessary luxuries. Finally, give all you can. Do not limit yourself to a [percentage]. Do not give God a tenth or even half what [God] already owns, but give all that is [God’s] by using your wealth to preserve yourself and family, the Church of God and the rest of humanity. In this way you will be able to give a good account of your stewardship when the Lord comes with all his saints [in final victory].

I plead with you in the name of the Lord Jesus, no more delay! Whatever task is before you, do it with all your strength. No more waste or luxury or envy. Use whatever God has loaned to you to do good to your fellow Christians and to all people. Give all that you have, as well as all that you are, to [God] who did not even withhold his own Son for [our] sake.  Commit to giving!

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You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both…

“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving…  [Gain all you can.  Save all you can.  Give all you can.] Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.[5]

You’ll find that God provides enough, if only we’d learn to be better stewards by gaining all we can, saving all we can and giving all we can.

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Will you commit to gaining all you can and saving all you can so that you can give all you can?

So far in this series you have been challenged to pray 30 minutes a day, attend worship 48 weeks a year and Bible Study 26 weeks a year.  Today, I’d like to challenge you to pay your tithe, 10% of your income.  I don’t care if that’s 10% of your disposable or gross income.  Simply pay the tithe that you think is faithful.  If you’re already tithing, consider moving beyond a tithe.

We’ve all got room to grow in our giving.  According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy (Philanthropy.com)people living in the 46511 zip code give on average 2.2% of their discretionary, disposable income to charity.  In Marshall County, the giving is slightly higher at 4.2%.[6]

The median household discretionary, disposable income for Marshall County is $52,084—this includes all forms of income minus taxes, housing costs, and other living expenses. [7]  Assuming that you all are average for this area, and assuming that all 115 pledgers at Wesley United Methodist Church will tithe ($5,208.40) in 2013, we’d be able to fund a budget of $598,966 for the sake of Christ and his mission in the world through this church.

Now I know that’s a big number.   I don’t have that much discretionary or disposable income either.  So, let’s assume that all 115 pledgers at Wesley United Methodist Church are at the poverty line.  The national poverty guideline for a household of 2 is $15,130.[8]  If your gross income is around this level, you should be receiving full government assistance (food, housing, child care, health care, etc.).  Let’s assume that all of the 115 pledgers were at the poverty line, but were doing the Biblical minimum of tithing ($1,513).  Wesley United Methodist Church would receive $173,995 to further Christ’s work in Culver and around the world.  Last year, we received nearly $70,000 less than this in pledges.  Can you imagine the ministry we’d be able to do for the sake of Christ if we were, as a group, giving at this level?

I wanted to show you these numbers not to shame or guilt you, but to show you the potential ministry we could have if only we were ALL faithful and committed to giving!

Test me, says God.

Bring your full tithe to the [church] so there will be ample provisions… Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.

Will you fully and freely commit to giving?  I pray so, for Christ’s sake, and his mission in and through this community of faith.  Amen.


[1] “American Household Credit Card Debt Statistics through July 2012,” by Tim Chen <http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-data/average-credit-card-debt-household/>  Accessed October 18, 2012.

[2] Information shared by David Bell at a Rejuvenate Workshop in 2009.  He referenced this information as coming from CardTrak.com.

[3] From the description of “That’s My Money” from worshiphousemedia.com <http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/7807/Thats-My-Money>

[4] This section is adapted from “John Wesley Sermon No. 44 ‘The Use of Money’ An Abridgment in Modern English” by Richard Hall <http://theconnexion.net/wp/?p=2873>  Accessed October 17, 2012.

[5] Matthew 6:24-33, The MessageEmphasis added.

[6] “Interactive: How America Gives” at Philanthropy.com <http://philanthropy.com/section/How-America-Gives/621/> Accessed October 18, 2012.

[7] Ibid.

[8] “2012 HHS Poverty Guidelines” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services <http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/12poverty.shtml#thresholds>  Accessed October 18, 2012.

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