WHERE YOUR HEART IS PART 4
by Pastor Mike Fortune
February 14, 2009
Introduction: "God's Pies"
- God isn't greedy [Luke 7:36-43; Psalm 50:10,12; Job 41:11]
- He wants us to tithe our treasure [Luke 7:44-49; Deuteronomy 8:17-18; Hebrews 7:8; Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42]
- And offer Him all our gratitude, obedience, and trust [Luke 7:50; Malachi 3:6-8,10,17; Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:21; Deuteronomy 12:5-6; Psalm 116:12]
Today, as our video clip highlighted, we're talking about giving God a piece of His pie. Because after all, it is His pie. Which is what we started talking about in part 2 and part 3 of our current sermon series Where Your Heart Is. I hope you've heard me loudly and clearly emphasizing God's invitation to tithe our time and our talents since these treasures are just as important to God, if not more important, than money. Why? Because you can always make more money to give. But you can't make more time. You can always hope that someone else tithes their talent, but because nobody else has your exact mix of passions and gifts, withholding yours not only stunts your growth in grace, but it also slows the advance of the kingdom of God on this earth.
That's why your time and your talents, like your mind, is a terrible thing to waste. Use it or lose it. And somewhere in the decadent decade of the greedy 1980s, I think more and more humble followers of Jesus started making the same kinds of conclusions about money. Or maybe just I did. Because ever since then, I've started reading the 2,350 verses about money in the Bible differently. Now relax! We're not going to look at all of them today. In fact, we really have time for just a few related to a story Jesus tells in Luke 7. But from the Scripture we do read, I hope and pray as a church family that we all become as convicted about consistently giving our tithes and offerings as the Gordon family became about giving some very different kinds of Christmas gifts.
Marta Aldrich is a writer in Franklin, TN and she tells the following story in the December 29, 2008 edition of the journal American Profile. The year was 2002 in Kingman, Arizona. Frank and Joan Gordon had just celebrated yet another bountiful Christmas Day with their children and grandchildren. Boxes, bows, and hastily torn wrapping paper littered the room while the family chatted around the dining room table after devouring a hearty turkey dinner with all the trimmings. The talk turned to next year's Christmas plans but before everyone could scatter for another year, the family patriarch and matriarch dropped this bombshell.
"We told them that we've lived enough years so that we have more things than we can use. So, next Christmas, instead of spending money on a gift for us, we asked them to spend that amount on someone else. The gift giving rules are simple: You have a whole year to come up with something, but then you have to come back and tell everyone else what you've done."
|The first year, everyone just went around the room and described their good deed. But after that, Frank and Joan asked for the deeds in writing as well so they could keep a record of the family's Christmas gifts in a scrapbook. You should see some pictures of the family holding that scrapbook which has brought more joy to Frank and Joan Gordon in their retirement years than a lifetime of material gifts and possessions ever did.|
|During the last 7 years, the Gordon's family treasure has been spent providing recreational activities for economically disadvantaged kids and sponsoring others who couldn't afford lessons, outfits, or coaching at a local gymnastics program. Another drives around looking for homeless men and women to take to breakfast and eats with them. Another sponsors children's basic needs through Compassion International. Another purchases a tree with lots of presents and delivers all of it to families who would otherwise not be able to afford either one.|
|Doing so has taught the younger members of the Gordon family that God is not greedy. And that when we give our money for Jesus' sake out of gratitude, He is well pleased. That's one of the things are Scripture teaches us today so let's begin by opening our Bibles to Luke 7. We could spend all day talking about this chapter.|
|Scholars find the similarities and differences between it and the stories like it told in Matthew 26 and Mark 14 and John 12 fascinating. So if you remind me about that some time, I'll take a whack at explaining it. But today we're talking about tithing our treasure—one of which, according to thousands of verses in the Bible, is money. So let's ask ourselves: What is this passage telling us about tithing our treasure or giving our money?|
Luke 7:36-50 says, "36Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.'" 40Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said. 41"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" 43Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said. 44Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." 48Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" 50Jesus said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'"
Simon doesn't know what to do with this lady. She barges into his party. Apparently uninvited. Verse 37 says this unnamed woman had lived a sinful life. Which everybody believes to mean she was a prostitute. Isn't it awesome that Jesus loves prostitutes like crazy? Isn't it also awesome that Jesus loves Pharisees just as much? Since guests at feasts like this would remove their sandals before the meal and recline with their feet away from the table, this arrangement made it fairly easy to anoint the feet of Jesus without being noticed until the scent of the perfumed ointment filled the room. And when it did, everybody quickly realized that she is operating out of a spirit of gratitude. Because nobody spends an entire year's salary on one bottle of perfume. Not even Paris Hilton!
Simon on the other hand is clearly operating out of greed. Yeah, he's hosting the party. And yeah, he has the common courtesy to say nothing out loud when a prostitute crashes it. But he's still thinking it! Did you notice that? Verse 39 says, "He said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet...he wouldn't let her do that.'" So Simon said it, but doesn't get it. He's thankful to man. But he's not grateful to God. And some of us are the same way. Because we haven't given God Lordship of our money. Which we should do. Sooner than later. Because it's actually all God's. And He shows us how to do that. Which we'll get to in a minute.
God owns everything, so He isn't needy or greedy
But please note point number one before we do: God is not greedy. This Pharisee was. But this prostitute wasn't. Maybe she knew that Psalm 50:10,12 says "10 For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. 12If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it." Job 41:11 adds, "11Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me."
So God is not needy and the corollary is just as true: God is not greedy. He doesn't need anything. From anyone. At any time. From prostitutes or Pharisees. So why does He ask to be Lord of our finances? I think it's because He absolutely loves it when prostitutes and Pharisees give Him small tokens of our gratitude and love! I've got a whole wall at home covered with pictures that Joshua and Lydia have drawn for me. My desk at home is also occasionally covered with post it notes. One night, even my pillow was covered with post it notes. I can take my kids almost anywhere except Office Depot. My kids have such a serious addiction to post it notes that Dee has to lock them in a little room beside the bag of candy she uses to fill that dish by the door in the church office.
God loves our gifts of gratitude
And in the same way that parents love to receive small tokens of our children's gratitude and love, so does God. And because He is God, He immediately knows whether the gifts we give come from hearts full of gratitude or greed. We know this is true because after he tells Simon a story about two men that owed another money, he asked him which man whose debts were forgiven loved more and upon answering Him correctly, Jesus tells Simon in verse 43, "You have judged correctly." Which leads us to point number two: God wants us to tithe our treasure.
What else can we conclude when Jesus lists the things this prostitute gives Jesus versus the things that Pharisee withholds? Jesus basically says in verses 44-49 [my paraphrase], "When I came into your house, you did not take the time to wash my feet. But she watered my feet with tears of joy. Anybody has the talent to extend an ordinary hand shake or a common kiss [a greeting friends back then often exchanged according to Matthew 26:49], but you didn't do this while this prostitute hasn't stopped kissing my feet since I got here. Olive oil costs next to nothing, but you didn't put the most common olive oil on my head to anoint me. But she has taken all the treasure she has and purchased a bottle of imported perfume and poured it all over my body "
God gives us the ability to earn money
What else can we conclude? Point number one: God isn't greedy. He enjoys receiving gifts from children whose hearts are full of gratitude. And point number two: He wants us to tithe our treasure. But treasure in the Bible isn't limited to sacrificed time and talents humbly shared. It also includes the money we earn. Why? Because God gave us the ability to earn it in the first place! Deuteronomy 8:17-18 says, "17You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth."
Now some people don't believe that. They say that their money is their money. Wrong. Their money is God's money. It's actually all God's because without His power, none of us would be able to breathe much less earn any. And it's been that way since the beginning of time. Including the 400 years before Moses ever wrote anything down about tithing because Genesis 14:20 says Abram gave Melchizedek king of Salem a tenth of everything. Which is literally what the word tithe means. A tenth. And because the writer of Hebrews shows the reader that Melchizedek is a prefigure of Christ, we can conclude that just as Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek we should give a tithe to Christ who is declared to be living. Hebrews 7:22 says it this way, "In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living."
But you don't need to dive into deep theology to reach the same conclusion. Because Jesus straight out told us how to tithe our treasure. He said to some Pharisee not named Simon in Matthew 23:23, "23Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." In case you think He was just joking, Jesus says the same thing in Luke 11:42, " 42Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone."
God wants us to tithe our money
So what's the point? The point is tithe means tenth and if the people of God gave tithes and offerings before the cross, and gave tithes and offerings after the cross according to Hebrews 7:22, don't you think we should as Jesus says continue doing so? But there's another reason God wants us to tithe our money. He knows doing so will instill gratitude, obedience, and trust in us. And this is point number three. Jesus tells that prostitute who tithed her time, talents, and treasure in Luke 7:50, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
But how do we have peace? I'd suggest we have peace when we sincerely do what God asks us to do. But what is God asking us to do with our money? Well, God spells it out for us in the book of Malachi chapter 3. Listen to this: Malachi 3:6-8 says, "6I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. "But you ask, 'How are we to return?' 8Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings.'"
Tithe provided food for the Levites
So apparently, God wants us to do something with tithes and offerings. But what else does the Bible say about tithes and offerings and what do we do with them? Well, that requires a little trip down memory lane. After Melchizadek and Abraham, years later Moses arrives and reminds the people what Abraham said about tithes belonging to God in Genesis 14:23 and because they belong to God and God is holy, the tithes are holy. Leviticus 27:30 confirms this, "30A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD." Since they were farmers, they gave their tithes with grain or fruit. And from the very beginning of this process, those tithes were used to feed or provide for the Levites or pastors of the temple since they couldn't grow their own food.
And why couldn't they grow their own food? Because they didn't own any land! When they came into Canaan, everybody got land except the Levites. But even if they did, they were too busy at the temple to farm it! That's why Numbers 18:21 says, "21I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting." And that's why Malachi says what he does hundreds of years later. "10Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house."
Some people today say the storehouse is the Ohio Conference Headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But since it didn't exist when Malachi wrote this 2500 years earlier, I don't believe that's what Malachi had in mind. What I do believe is the Ohio Conference is a storehouse but not the only one. Because plenty of other places are doing great ministry! But one of the best places, if you don't believe me ask Pastor Rachel, in fact one of the only places where we could do pastoral ministry like we believe God is calling us to do ours, is in the Ohio Conference. And because of that, I am eternally grateful to the leaders there. Are they perfect? No. Have they made mistakes in the past? Yes. But last time I checked, so have we! So why should we hold that against them if 1 Corinthians 13:5 says we shouldn't keep a record of wrongs?
Tithe pays for pastors and teachers today
Jesus knew Judas would make mistakes with the money, but he still let him be treasurer. I guess if you own all the cattle on a thousand hills, there's no such thing as financial crisis! But why did we need storehouses in first place? Back then it was so God's Levites could live. Today it's so God's pastors can preach. And take care of their families. That's why Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 that just as the priests got their food from the tithes of the people, so the preachers should live the same way.
So that's what tithe is and why it's used to pay for pastors today. But why does Malachi say we rob God of offerings as well? Because all our money is God's. Not just the tithe. And God asks people to give free will offerings above and beyond the tithe. Deuteronomy 12:5-6 says, "But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks."
Now maybe you are the poor. And you can't afford to give much additional offering. The Christians in Corinth were the same way. But they gave as much as they were able. 2 Corinthians 8:2 says, "Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability." Kind of like that widow in Luke 21. Did I show you that picture that Dan drew for me yet? Take a look at this.
Isn't that amazing? Big thanks and WTG to Dan for drawing what Jesus describes there in Luke 21. The lady only had two pennies but she gave them to God anyway trusting Him to provide for Her needs.
And I think that's the kind of risky maturing faith God is calling us to display in the 21st century. We just got new tithe and offering envelopes to help us do so. If the deacons could distribute them right now to every member and guest while I'm talking, I would appreciate that. When you receive them, on the right side of the envelope you'll see that's where you put your ten percent. When you do, every dollar given there is forwarded to Mount Vernon Ohio where the headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ohio exists. There 86 cents of every dollar given by us and all the other churches in Ohio is combined with ours and then divided primarily among Ohio's pastors and school teachers like ours. That's how I get paid. And that's partially how our teachers here at Toledo Junior Academy get paid. The other 14 cents of every dollar marked tithe goes out of state and flies around the world to support the world wide Adventist movement.
Now last year, our tithe increased by $15k to approximately $175k which is fantastic! And everyone I work for is very pleased with the progress. But when you think that every day we're actually utilizing over $210k worth of salaried leadership in our church and school since a portion of tithe also pays the salaries of our teaches here at Toledo Junior Academy, can you see why I think we still have room to grow in grace and in giving of our tithes?
Last year, we spent about $10k on outreach and evangelism. This year, even though giving trends are changing and the economy is tanking, we're hoping to spend double that. So your monies marked Offerings on the left side of the envelope help us do that which I'll be talking about more next week when we take a closer look at our new Luke 10 Fund and the story of the Good Samaritan. But my question to you in closing is found in Psalm 116:12. "12 How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me?" The bottom line is you can't. But that didn't stop that prostitute from showering Jesus with gratitude! And it shouldn't stop us from giving God our tithes and offerings!
Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." But if that's true, shouldn't the reverse also be true? Where your heart is, your treasure should be also? So let me also ask you: Where is your heart? Whether you're a member or a guest, is it here in Toledo First? My friend in Columbus enjoys telling me that, "Churches just suck you dry of time and money." And she's right. We do. And I don't apologize for that. You know why? Because so does the mall! And the movies. And cable TV all of which we find ways to afford. So if we can do that for things so insignificant, why can't we do that for the leadership and ministries our church provides? Where we're growing from the children's divisions up a Christ centered church shouting the Gospel with our lives.
So if your heart is here, would you please consider making this your storehouse? And give us your tithes and offerings to invest in the kingdom? Not just on Christmas or Easter. Out of obligation or duty. But like the Gordon family, out of gratitude throughout the year. So at the end of it, we can rejoice together as a church family for all the good things He has done.
If you don't think you can do that, I dare you to try! Start somewhere. Whatever the percentage. Every little bit of tithe and offering helps. Start someplace and be consistent all year because God is consistent with you [Lamentations 3:21-23]. That's why I'm giving you 12 envelopes. One per month for the next 12 months. And let's see if in a year from now our compassionate God doesn't pour out a blessing bigger than we can receive. Malachi 3:17 say if we do that, that "17They will be mine," says the LORD Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him." So don't forget: YOU are His treasured possession. Go now in gratitude. Give by grace. And live in peace. Amen.