FBCW – “Body Builder” 6/08
“A lad of 16 years named William left home to seek his fortune, all his possessions tied in a bundle carried in his hand. He met an old canal-boat captain. William told him his father was too poor to keep him and the only trade he knew was soap and candle making.
The old man then kneeled and prayed earnestly for the boy and advised: “Someone will soon be the leading soap-maker in New York. It can be you as well as someone else. Be a good man, give your heart to Christ, pay the Lord all that belongs to Him, make an honest soap; give a full pound, and I’m certain you’ll be a prosperous and rich man.”
Into the city, he remembered the captain’s words, and though poor and lonesome, he united with a church. The first dollar earned, he gave 1/10 to God. Ten cents of every dollar were sacred to the Lord. Having regular employment, he soon became a partner and later sole owner of the business. He made an honest soap, gave a full pound and instructed his bookkeeper to open an account with the Lord of 1/10 of all income. The business grew, so he gave 2/10, 3/10, 4/10, 5/10 and finally he gave all his income.
This is the story of William Colgate, who has given millions to the Lord’s cause.”
This story illustrates well a man’s living and active devotion to Christ. A devotion that knew no limits; it was a devotion where someone “put their money where their mouth was;” this was someone who didn’t just talk the talk but walked the walk. How difficult is that for us sometimes? To live out what we say we believe about God in a very real and practical way? The discipline of giving our money to God is one such way that our real and authentic Christian faith should be lived out.
Giving to God is at once an extremely private matter and yet if not done or done with the right attitude, a matter that can wreak havoc with your Christian walk. You may be a Christian with many good and godly traits and disciplines. You come to church regularly, faithfully attend Bible Study, fellowship with the saints, etc., etc. You are a model Christian…yet something seems to be missing. You don’t feel like you’re growing and maturing in the Lord the way you thought you would. If this is you, it’s possible that you may be suffering from “give-a-phobia.” This may sound like a joke but its not. Sometimes our disobedience in this area is all that’s needed to cause a rift in our relationship with the Lord. It was the one thing that stood in the way of a real relationship with Jesus and consequently eternal life for the rich young ruler.
Now of course there are different types of giving, or to use a broader term, stewardship, but for the purpose of this article we will focus on financial giving as opposed to say, giving of your time or talents which were covered more in the last BB under the banner of “serving.” In order to do this, we will follow the 10 New Testament principles of giving as outlined in Donald Whitney’s excellent book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. This month we will consider the first five.
1. God Owns Everything You Own
Psalm 24:1 reminds us, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.” Basically, everything is God’s because God is the creator of everything. We are more like stewards, managers of the things God has given us. God wants us to enjoy what He has graciously provided for us but we are also to manage these things well and use them to bring Him glory (1 Cor. 10:31). This includes our job or career, finances, food, shelter, car, clothing, gardens, even the fun “extras” like TV’s, computers, fly-rods, boats, toys, etc. We have to remember that it is by God’s hand that we have these things and by God’s hand they could be taken away. We don’t own anything; God owns it all - we are merely managers of it. This is something that many of us may believe in theory, but is it truly reflected in our giving? The question we should be asking is not how much of my money should I give to God but how much of God’s money should I give back to Him or to put it a different way, how much of God’s money should I keep for myself? “When we put a check or cash into the offering plate, we should give it with the belief that all we have belongs to God and with the commitment that we will use all of it as He wants.”
2. Giving is an Act of Worship
Philippians 4:18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.
The word worship comes from the English word worth-ship meaning to ascribe worth or value to someone or something and certainly there is none with more value or worth than the Lord Himself. We have many reasons to worship God, not the least of which is that He saves us from hell, the very consequences of our sin, and gives us the promise of eternal life. Additionally, there are as many different ways we can give God our worship; one of those ways being through our giving.
In this text, Paul compares the Philippian church’s offering to an Old Testament sacrifice that, when done properly and from a right heart, becomes a “fragrant aroma” to God and one that is an “acceptable sacrifice” and “well-pleasing to God.” Maybe you have never really considered the act of giving of your finances to God as something worshipful, yet that’s exactly what Paul tells us it is. It is a way to worship our Creator and Redeemer. But like any form of worship, it has to come from a pure heart; a heart that is seeking to worship God by giving.
3. Giving Reflects Faith in God’s Provision
One way to examine your trust and faith in the Lord is to examine your checkbook. Your giving will be one indication of your belief that God will or will not provide for your needs. The poor widow of Mark 12:41-44 must have believed that God would provide for and take care of her to the extent that she put in everything she had to live on. Can you imagine doing that? Can you imagine coming to church one Sunday with either a check or cash for the exact amount that you had in your bank account as well as whatever you had at home? Most of us can’t even fathom doing that yet that’s exactly what Jesus said this woman did.
Friends, we will give to the degree that we truly believe in God’s provision for us. If we really have faith in this matter we will be generous and risk more, if we doubt to any degree, we will give less. What you give can be a tangible measuring stick of how much you really trust God to take care of you or your family.
4. Giving Should Be Sacrificial and Generous
There is a great illustration of sacrificial, generous giving in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. Here Paul is commending the churches in Macedonia to the Corinthians in hopes that the Corinthians will learn something of the nature of giving. In this passage we see that even though the Macedonian churches were experiencing “a great ordeal of affliction” and were deeply poverty stricken, yet because of the grace of God and their joy in the Lord, they gave in a most sacrificial and generous way. Paul says they gave “according to their ability, and beyond their ability (emphasis added)” and actually begged to be able to give to the other churches. In reality, they should have been the ones to receive financial support as they had an incredible need, but instead it was on their hearts to give.
What does it mean to give sacrificially? Well, it’s only sacrificial if it’s a sacrifice for you. So often we give, keeping back everything we think we might need or want based on our budget. But how often do we give beyond what we think we are able, trusting that God will provide for us? I am not talking about not paying your bills, but I am talking about giving things up. Instead of going out to dinner for a month why not give that money to God or maybe divert our monthly ‘entertainment money’ to the church or instead of burning up gas money on a vacation how about giving it to a missionary so they could travel in their mission field, etc. One might ask if things like this really constitute a sacrifice? When weighed up against the Macedonians with their affliction and poverty, this still looks like giving from our surplus, as opposed to the sacrificial kind. Why not take it to God in prayer and ask Him how you might give sacrificially and generously. Will you beg Him to let you do this?!
If you’re still not sure, consider this: as a parent you’ve spent many sleepless nights because of your children; you’ve changed their dirty diapers; cared for them when they were sick; dried many tears; acted as a taxi service, coach and referee; you’ve spent much money on them throughout the years – even tens of thousands of dollars that you could have spent on many other things for yourself yet if you have ever been in that position of looking back on it all, I don’t know many parents that would say it wasn’t worth it or that they wouldn’t do it again. It’s the same way with sacrificial and generous giving - you won’t regret it!
Hear Jesus’ words from Luke 16:10-13 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. 11“Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? 12“And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Jesus makes it clear in v. 11 of this passage that our giving directly relates to our spiritual trustworthiness. If we can’t be trusted to be a good steward of earthly things, then we can’t be trusted with more important, spiritual things. Your stewardship of the money God has given you will be a good indicator of how spiritually trustworthy you are. Ask yourself these questions: do you truly love Christ and His Word? Your giving will reflect that.
Do you desire to be obedient to His Word? Your giving will reflect that. Do you want to see the kingdom of God advance and grow? Your giving will reflect that. Do you love His church and the work God does through your local body? Your giving will reflect that. Do you have a heart for the spreading of the gospel message? Your giving will reflect that. As I mentioned earlier, the proof will be in the pudding. Imagine if, after you died, your children or grandchildren were looking through all of your old bank and credit card statements…what would they learn about you? Would they see your Christianity reflected in those pages? Would they say you were someone who ‘walked the talk?’ Would those statements be “tangible evidence” of your spiritual trustworthiness?
More next month!