“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Cheerful Giver

As David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David and went out from the threshing floor and paid homage to David with his face to the ground. And David said to Ornan, "Give me the site of the threshing floor that I may build on it an altar to the LORD--give it to me at its full price--that the plague may be averted from the people." Then Ornan said to David, "Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all." But King David said to Ornan, "No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing."

~ 1st Chronicles 21:21 – 24 ~

The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah. Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah.

~ Psalm 24 ~

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

~ Romans 12:1 ~

I recently posted on the servant's heart and I thought I would complete the short series with a couple of posts on giving. There are a few more thoughts running around in my head, and may post them at a later date.

True servants of God are ones whose hearts have been transformed by the Spirit of God. We cannot ‘work’ our way into a servant’s heart – oh, we can put on a fa├žade that LOOKS like a servant’s role, but the Lord examines the heart, not the outward actions – ask Saul who thought he could placate God by sacrificing the best animals of Amalek – it cost him the kingdom; maybe you could ask Ananias and Sapphira – they thought that their outwardly magnanimous gift would elevate them in the eyes of the embryonic Church; instead, they were truly slain by the Spirit of God! (giving 'slain in the spirit' a whole new meaning!)

We cannot ‘become’ servants by reading a book on our purpose, nor can a pastor enforce servant’s hearts on the congregation by pounding the pulpit hard enough – no, servant’s hearts are the result of a heart transplant by God -- from a heart of stone into a heart of flesh, followed by the sanctifying work of the Spirit in our lives, driven by a life of prayer. We are called, as we read in Romans 12, to be living sacrifices, which is our reasonable worship. Our prayer should be, as David’s in Psalm 51“Create in me a clean heart, and restore a right spirit in me”.

We are called to be HUPERETAS – fellow under-rowers on the great ship of faith. We are people who are not our own, but bought with a price [1st Corinthians 6:19, 20], no longer living to ourselves, but rather living to the Lord [Romans 14:7, 8].

With that backdrop, this post will touch upon a subject that many are uncomfortable with – as I was when I began in ministry. It will discuss our Christian service as stewards of the things that God has given us.

As I have been studying this, I went through many passages regarding tithing, and money, but at the end of it all, I discovered something quite remarkable – that giving to the Lord’s work has ALWAYS been an act of worship, not an act of reluctant servitude.

It is said that if you want to know a person’s god or idol, you need only follow the path of their time, talent and wallet. This will ultimately lead you to what they love or desire more than anything else. It is truly sad to say that in our society we might find that the god/idol of some is a Sony Playstation, an iPod, a nice car with 22’ wheels and spinners, a motorcycle, or even a career. Even sadder, the Body of Christ finds that the trail of their time, effort and money often leads to similar or identical idols!

As a Pastor I have often heard the following questions: “Do I tithe on the gross or the net of my income?” or “Is tithing actually a New Testament principle, I mean, now we are under grace, right?” As if giving to the Lord’s work was as cumbersome and forced as giving to the IRS, or paying a traffic ticket!

Of course, I understand that many so-called preachers have abused the concept and have extorted or downright swindled money out of good, God-fearing people, all the while they drive luxury cars, have two or three mansions, and a suite of private aircraft and bodyguards. Oh, of course they will distribute a pittance of the gifts to ‘doing the work of the kingdom’. Sadly, these selfsame people ‘rob’ from the local church, as they coerce people to give to THEIR ministries, so that the giver will get! Money gets sent in, oftentimes being deducted from the work of the local church’s ministry, with the promise that somehow this ‘seed’ will blossom into a ten-fold blessing for the giver.

This is not the spirit of giving that is discussed in God’s Word – God is not our lottery ticket – He MAY bless our giving, but if our motive is to give to the Kingdom in order to get financially rewarded, we will be sadly disappointed most times. Our Messiah says that we are not to lay up treasures on the Earth, but to store them in Heaven where moth, rust and robbers cannot get to them!

So the local church and its pastors have been painted with the same brush as these abusive ministries, and therefore many unbelievers, (and sadly, believers), adhere to the fact that preachers (i.e. me) are always standing with their hand out. Well, truth be told, I have spoken on giving once in five years.

God is no beggar! I am not standing with my hand out – as I hope to point out in these posts, it is not our BURDEN, but our PRIVILEDGE to put our resources into the work of the Kingdom!

God owns the cattle on a thousand hills -- [Psalm 50:10 – 15] -- For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. "If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."

Does that sound like He is begging? No, He is calling His people to offer a sacrifice of Thanksgiving – give out of a Thankful and cheerful heart. God is not strapped for cash; He needs nothing from His creation, but offers to us the indescribable privilege of participating with Him in the work of the Kingdom!

I will complete my thoughts in a second post.

6 comments:

danny said...

Hi Ray,

I'm a Free Grace guy who is interested in the rabbinical literature that mentions weeping and gnashing of teeth. Not everyone in FG takes a reward view of outer darkness. Some FG people see it as hell, and thus see the sons of the kingdom, guest without the wedding garment, and unprofitable servant as people who simply didn't believe in Jesus for eternal life. There is also a small wing of FG that sees the outer darkness passages as dealing with unfaithful believers who spend the Millenium in Gehenna, before being allowed to enter the Eternal Kingdom. I'm undecided on the issue, and would love to see the rabbinical literature for myself.

danny said...

Ray,

I found your answer to solifidian regarding outer darkness in your Feb 2006 archives. You said Gehenna is referred to several times in the rabbinical literature as a place of darkness. Here's a direct question - is there a specific phrase that is equivalent to the Greek phrase OUTER darkness (to skotos to exoteron) in the rabbinical literature? Is there a specific phrase that connects weeping and gnashing of teeth with an OUTER darkness? Are darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth seen together?

The 1,000-years in Gehenna Free Grace view obviously sees a purgatorial side to Gehenna, just like some of the Rabbis did.

J. Wendell said...

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to you and your church!

Ray said...

Danny, I have not been ignoring, but been out of pocket....

So, to my knowledge there is not an 'outer' darkness -- just darkness... Understand that in the handful of times where it is used, it is in a parabolic context -- Messiah is using the term to distinguish between inside and outside... And in each there is the term weeping and gnashing of teeth, something that is outside the context of heaven, where there will be no more tears etc...

Bugs and J. Wendell -- thanks for stopping by...

tithe and offerings man said...

The problem is that there are more questions that i've brought up about tithing that have gone unanswered. Whether tithing under gross or net, or are we under grace, are the baby questions that i've got stacked up in my brain about the topic. for instance why do we only obey the percentage of tithing when there were laws about its timing, place, and substance? How can we receive the blessing of tithing when we follow a quarter of its covenant? Who knows. I do agree that a cheerful heart is most important. It was a good blog to read.