The Farmer - Part 2

Bible Book: 2 Corinthians  9 : 6
Subject: Giving; Stewardship; Tithing; Money
Series: Portraits of the Saints
Introduction

We have been looking at a series of messages entitled, Portraits of the Saints. We come now to part two of the message on the saint as a farmer. Today we are going to look once again at the illustration of the Christian as a farmer, but this time we are going to see that the Bible presents a different portrayal of the Christian as one who plants and harvests, who sows and reaps. Look with me at 2 Corinthians 9:6.

Last week we looked at the witness, the soul winner, as one who sows the seed of God’s Word and watches the harvest of souls come to the Lord. I told you then that the subject of witnessing was the second most unappreciated sermon topic in the modern church. Well, today I am going to speak on the number one most unappreciated subject in the modern church – the subject of giving, of stewardship, of sowing our money in order to see a great harvest produced.

Many church members look at giving as an act of getting by with giving the least they can to soothe their conscience and meet God’s standards. Paul Harvey said that a woman called up the Butterball Turkey Company's consumer hotline and asked about the advisability of cooking a turkey that had been in her freezer for 23 years. The customer service representative told her that it might be okay to eat it if the freezer had maintained a below-zero temperature the entire time, but even so the flavor would have deteriorated so much that it wouldn't be very tasty. Said the caller, “Oh, that's what we thought. We'll just donate it to the church.”We need a renewed understanding of what it means to be a faithful Christian in our stewardship, in our giving to God’s work.

Before you turn me off because you don’t want to hear about financial matters as they relate to your giving, let me preface everything I am going to say by telling you that God’s will for you to give is mainly for your benefit. The Lord owns the earth and everything in it. He could take anything He wanted at any time he chose to do so. He could empty your pockets, your bank account, and your jewelry box before the day is out. God gives us directions in giving because He cares about us and desires to bless us through this grace. Look at 2 Corinthians 8:7 and note that it reads, “But just as you excel in everything-- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-- see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” Paul calls giving a grace. Grace is God’s unmerited love for us. The grace of giving is an extension of God’s salvation and is part of the blessing of knowing Him. That is why we don’t sell pumpkins at Thanksgiving, candy at Christmas or car washes in the summer in order to raise money in this church. We don’t ask unsaved people to support the work God has saved us and called us to do. We are in grace once we are saved and giving is part of that grace. Now, I want every born again Christian to listen closely today because your Lord wants to speak to you on this matter. How can I say that? Because

What we are going to do today is look at the ladder of hilarity in the matter of charity. What do I mean by this? Simply put, this means that giving takes place on different levels. There is a low motivation and meaning to giving and there is a high and holy motivation and meaning to giving. We are going to start at the lowest point of being prompted to give to God and move the highest, happiest and holiest reason for giving.

I. The Step of Commandment

We begin at the bottom rung on the ladder of meaningful giving. Some people give simply because they are commanded to do so in the Bible. In fact, there is a command in the Scripture for God’s people to give to Him. The Bible records the tithe as predating the Law in Genesis 14:17-24. Jesus certified that the tithe is God’s will in Matthew 23:23. And God blesses the tithe according to His promises in Malachi 3:8-11.

The truth is, however, that the tithe predates the Law. In other words, before the Law was giving by God to Moses and to God’s people, Abraham gave tithes. So, tithing is a Spiritual matter not just a legal one. Yet, there is a law in the Bible which states that we should tithe. In fact, not to tithe is to rob God of that which is rightly His. Look at Malachi 3 and you will see this fact spelled out clearly.

Some people will say that Jesus did away with the Law and that NT believers do not have to adhere to the Law. Actually, you are wrong. Jesus did not do away with the Law, He expanded the Law. For example, Jesus said that the Law said that it was wrong for a man to commit adultery, but He added that it is actually a form of adultery for a man to look on a woman and lust after her. In other words, He took the Law a step further. This is exactly why I tell you that giving because you have too is the lowest rung on the ladder of stewardship. It is the lowest possible motivation. It is not altogether wrong, nor is it sinful, but it is not best for us or for God’s work. This type of giving can lead to sin. It can create resentment. It can cause anger toward God and the Church. It can lead to outright rebellion. Though giving because it is commanded is not sinful, it can lead to many different sins.

Yes, God commanded that we should pay the tithe and give offerings, but He did not want this to be a matter of responsibility but rather a matter of rejoicing. In fact, the Bible almost always equates giving with joy, thankfulness, happiness and gladness. Giving for purely legal reason cannot bring one the joy which God means for giving to supply.

Let me interject here a very important lesson. God designed giving to help us, to develop us and to teach us. God is a giver. Everything you have He has given you. The air you breathe, He has given to you. But also, God taught giving to help us know how important it is to manage money. If you pay your tithe to God’s House and then give offerings above and beyond the tithe, you can be sure you will have to be even more careful with the rest. This makes you budget and use money carefully. You become better at saving and investing. Tithers are wiser with money than non-tithers. They have to be!

II. The Step of Common Sense

The second step on the ladder of hilarity in the matter of charity is common sense. This is not the greatest reason to give, but it makes sense. Let me explain. Everyone knows that you cannot have a church without expenses. You cannot have ministry without expenses. You cannot provide heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer without money. You cannot provide Sunday School classes and books without money. You cannot send missionaries all over the world without money. From office equipment to witnessing tracts everything we do costs money and it costs more money every year. It is common sense that the people who are saved should meet those expenses.

Some people will tell you that they do not go to church anymore because the preacher talks about money too much. Well, that cannot be this church. In fact, I have had some members and leaders to ask me through the years why I don’t preach on tithing and giving more often. The truth is, I believe that when the heart is right the possessions will follow. However, from time to time the Lord would have us to hear about this subject of giving and to remind us to get our hearts right when it comes to giving. But it is a funny thing to me that those who would complain about money don’t do that in regard to any other function in life. For example, the wait person in a restaurant expects 15% as a tip, but the same people who complain about God’s tithe at 10% don’t stop going out to eat. The lowest tax rate in this country right now is 15%, and there are brackets that much, much higher, but the people who complain about God’s tithe at 10% don’t leave the country as a protest against the government. Many credit card companies charge 10, 12 and even 19% interest on their charge cards, but the people who complain about God’s tithe at 10% go right on using those credit cards. Let me tell you truth about this matter, it only makes common sense that God’s work demands a certain level of giving to perform the ministries and works in His name. That He gives us the privilege to give those funds through His tithe and our offerings ought to make us feel honored not horrified!

Some people give because they know it just makes common sense that God’s work demands money. This is one reason some people give, but it down near the bottom of the ladder of hilarity in the matter of charity. One reason this approach is not the best is because it is not Biblically and Spiritually based. It can lead to wrong motives as well. Let me tell you a story to illustrate my point. Some hoodlums in Miami cut down several beautiful royal palm trees along Flagler Street. The trees were sorely missed by the people of the area. But a company stepped in a said they would replace the trees as a act of generosity and good will. After all, the trees left a gaping hole along the streets landscaping and besides that the trees had partially blocked a large billboard which advertised the Eastern Airlines. So the company brought in the trees and planted them. The former trees had been 15 feet tall, the replacement trees were 30 feet tall and completed blocked out the Eastern Airline billboard. Now, the rest of the story. The company who bought the replacement trees was Eastern Airlines rival company, Delta Airlines!

If we give for a lower or wrong reason, very often the result is that we give for personal rather than spiritual reasons. We need to step up the ladder of hilarity in the matter of charity.

III. The Steps of Cooperation and Concern

The third step on the ladder is that of cooperation, or you might call it concern, or you could term it compassion. It is the feeling that you want to be a part of something which your brothers and sisters in Christ are doing. It could be because you see a need and desire to fill it. It could be that a call has come out to you and you become concerned and so you reach down deep and begin to give to the Lord’s work in your local church as never before.

IV. The Step of the Cross

The top rung on the ladder of hilarity in the matter of charity is the step that leads to the cross. When we come to the cross we are overwhelmed at the love of God for us. We see what real giving is all about. We remember John 3:16 and the gift of God for our salvation. When we reach this stage of giving, we pay the tithe and give our offerings because of love not the law. Giving truly becomes a matter of grace.

Jesus gave His life, not because we deserved it, but because of His love. Jesus gave His life freely. Jesus gave His love in joy – as recorded in Hebrews. That does not mean it was easy or a happy experience. It means He had an inner peace and joy knowing that the price He was paying would result in the eternal life of multitudes.

When you and I come to the foot of the cross in our hearts, we are ready at last to take the big step of giving out of a joyful and thankful heart. Dr. Hugh McKean of Chiengmai, Thailand, tells of a church of four hundred members where every member tithes. They receive a weekly wage of forty stangs (less than twenty cents] and their rice. Of this meager existence, each gives a tenth every week. Because of this, they have done more for Christ in Thailand than any other church. They pay their own preacher and have sent two missionary families to spread the gospel in a community cut off from the outside world. They are intensely interested in all forms of Christian work, especially work for unfortunates of every kind; and their gifts for this kind of work are large. They have not only accepted Christ, but, having found Him good, they are making Him known to others. Oh, by the way, this church of all tithers is also a church of all lepers--every person has leprosy. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 461.

Interestingly, these lepers did not live lives of resentment and self pity. They were not angry with God. they did not withhold from God because they had so little to give. They gave because they had been redeemed. That is what you and I must do if we would know the joy of giving.

Conclusion

Now, let me come back to the illustration of the farmer. You might be asking, what does all I have said have to do with the Christian as a farmer? Turn to John 12:23-24 and read these words, Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Jesus was speaking of His own life. He was planting it in death that we might be the fruit or harvest of the seed. He gave in order to bring forth much fruit. You and I are to sow the seed of our money in the work of God in order that we might honor the cross, that we might honor the Christ of that Cross, in order that we might bring glory to Him who died on that Cross.

The songwriter penned:

"You gave, You gave your best to me,

What have I given Thee?

You gave, You gave your best to me,

What have I given Thee?

We did not save ourselves, He died to save us. The poet penned:

“Twas not the church that saved my soul,

Nor yet my life so free from sin,

Twas Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

He rescued me, He took me In.

Twas not my works that saved my soul,

Nor yet my zeal, my prayers, my tears,

Twas Jesus Christ, the Son of God,

He bore my sins, he calmed my fears

Oh, hallelujah, praise His name!

Twas Jesus Christ who made me whole

He rescued me from sin and shame

He bled, he died, he saved my soul!”

 

Extra Illustrations:

What is the attitude toward money in the 1990s? A research project on Religion and Economic Values at Princeton University found:

89% agreed that our society is too materialistic.

74% said materialism is a serious social problem.

71% said society would be better off with less emphasis on money.

90% said children want too many material things.

75% felt advertising corrupts our basic values.

71% think being greedy is a sin.

Of those surveyed, 89% said their families never discussed their family budget with others. Discussing finances with fellow churchgoers is taboo to 97%. As a result, we worry about money alone instead of benefiting from others' counsel, and we do not gain the perspective that might come from testing our views more openly.

In the survey, 68% said money is one thing, morals and values are another. Of course, 78% said they think a lot about values and priorities. However, our economic behavior usually doesn't support this.

The pastors might be afraid of seeming too interested in money. Many people feel churches should be devoted to the spiritual life without acknowledging material needs. According to 43%, churches are too eager to get one's time and money. In fact, if giving were emphasized more, 30% said they would give less. (The extra illustration is from “Pious materialism: How Americans view faith and money," by Robert Wuthnow. Christian Century, Mar 3, 1993. Pages 238-242.