The Gift of Giving

Looking at what the Bible teaches us about the importance of tithing.

George Wright
Sep 29, 2019    36m
In this sermon Pastor George Wright shares scripture that explains the importance of tithing. He explains that tithing is an expression of our trust in God with all that he has given us. He challenges the congregation to take a three month tithing challenge so that they can learn what is possible when they put their trust in God in all things. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 This morning as we continue in our series, The Blessed Life. We are looking specifically at the life God blesses through faithful and obedient giving, faithful and obedient giving. And I realize that giving is one of those topics that a lot of people don't get excited about. But here's the deal, I want you to know personally, I am so excited to have the privilege of preaching this message straight from the word of God. Because I believe with all of my heart that some of you today through this, through what the word of God says, and through the Spirit moving in your life, you are going to experience God at work in your life in ways that you never have before, and that is exciting to consider. So let's look at the word of God together, and ask God to use this in our lives.

George Wright: 00:51 Malachi 3:10, would you be willing to stand with me as I read from the word of God, this one verse, to set the stage, and to lay the foundation for where we will be going in God's word this morning. Malachi 3:10, we stand because the word of God is our authority, and what God says is right and good and true even as it relates to giving in our resources. The scripture says, "Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need." How many of you want to see the windows of heaven open? How many of you want to see God pour out his blessing? What a gift it is to step into the word of God, and to consider what God says to us?

George Wright: 01:57 Would you pray with me as we consider God's word this morning? Father, on this very important, but very challenging, topic of giving and stewardship and resources. It is my prayer that your spirit would come and move in this place in great power, that our ears would not be turned off or blocked, that our hearts would not be hardened. But that we would be open to listen, and open to receive, what it is that you say. We need to hear from you, and Lord as it relates to giving, we specifically need to hear what you say is best. And so I pray that you would have your way among us, and use this time for your glory. Let us see with greater clarity the love and the grace that you have made available to us through your word, even in this topic of giving. So we commit this time to you, it's in Jesus' name I pray. Amen. Amen. You may be seated.

George Wright: 03:10 I realize if you're new to Shandon today, you're saying, why did I pick this Sunday to come for the first time? But listen, this is such an important topic that the word of God lays before us, because it impacts every single one of our lives. And thankfully for all of us, the word of God is very clear, and the word of God invites us into something more. The word of God invites us to see God at work in incredible ways in this conversation. But I realize you may be somewhat resistant even thinking about a message on giving. You may kind of already be, in your heart, crossing your arms saying, who are you to talk to me about my money? And I understand that this is one of those topics where we can sometimes get a little defensive. It can feel a little bit uncomfortable. But here's my hope, and here's my prayer. That we would, we would lean in to the word of God, and we would lean in to the spirit of God, as he's laying before us what we need to see from the scripture.

George Wright: 04:17 And so I want to start this morning, before we dive back in to Malachi's 3, our text for the day. I want to start this morning by just laying out a very simple question. Why does God command his people to give? Why does God command his people to give? Let's start with the why, before we move to the what. There's a lot of reasons why, but I want to lay before you this morning to get us started, two specific reasons, according to the word of God, why God commands his people to give. You may be a little bit surprised by these.

George Wright: 04:58 First and foremost, God commands his people to give because God is good. God commands his people to give because God is good, and he is for the good of his people. He knows what's best for us. He knows what we need in our heart of hearts. He is good, and so he shows us what is right and good and true. Let me give you an example of this. James chapter 1 in the New Testament. James chapter 1 near the end of the scripture, verse 16 it says, "Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures." Our creator, God, is extravagantly generous with us, he knows what is best for us. He is good, and he pours out good gifts on his children. And the word of God teaches us about giving, because God loves us and he wants us to be free ,and he wants us to see that his way truly is the best way for us to live in freedom. He is a generous God, and he wants us to not only partake of his generosity, he wants us to participate in his generosity and to be a blessing to others. He knows what is best for you, and he knows what is best for me, and he knows the joy of giving. Our perfect heavenly father knows the joy of giving, and he wants his people to experience this joy as we trust in his provision. The biblical command to give is given to us because God is good, and he is for the good of his people.

George Wright: 07:20 But secondly, there's a very important reason why the scripture reveals to us that God commands his people to give, and it's this, God knows our heart. God knows your heart, God knows my heart, and in knowing my heart and in knowing your heart, God knows how easy it is for me and how easy it is for you to be gripped by the love of material things. He knows how easy it is for our heart to be devoted to the things of this world. I mean, isn't it true that it can easily be argued in our culture, in our country, that materialism is one of the biggest issues of idolatry that we face? Isn't that something we could argue? God knows this. He knows our hearts are so easily captured. I love this quote from Randy Alcorn in his great little book called The Treasure Principle. It's all about biblical giving, and what the scripture says about giving. He says this, "Giving is the only antidote to materialism. Giving is a joyful surrender to a greater person and a greater agenda. It breaks the chains of the money god, that would enslave me." And how many of us know that the money god can so easily capture our hearts and enslave us? God knows this, he knows our heart. So he calls his people, and commands his people, to give so that our hearts are not grips by a false god and taken away from him. Jesus says this, Matthew 6:2,1 "Where your treasure is there your heart will be also. (Verse 24.) No one can serve two masters for either he will hate the one, and love the other or he will be devoted to one, and despise the other." The words of Jesus, you cannot love and serve God and money.

George Wright: 09:35 See, the word of God knows that this is a heart issue. The word of God deals with money, and giving, and stewardship, and tithing time and time again, because God knows this is a heart issue and you cannot separate your resources from being a picture of your heart. The way you use your resources reveals what matters most to your heart. And God knows, God knows, that faithful giving will line our heart up with his. And he knows what we need, and so he invites us to give.

George Wright: 10:18 So that in mind we go back to our text for the day, Malachi chapter 3, in the Old Testament. And we're going to look back at verse 6 and come all the way through verse 12, so we see what the word of God says as it relates to what God commands his people to give Malachi 3:6, "For I the Lord do not change. Therefore you O' sons of Jacob are not consumed." If we're going to understand what God is commanding his people to do as it relates to giving, we must first realize this very important truth that is revealed through the prophet Malachi, God does not change. This is good news, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever more. God does not change, and the principles he lines out for his people do not change. Why does that matter as it relates to giving? In my years of ministry, not only here but in other places, I've had conversations with people about giving. Who have said to me, no, no, no, giving tithing, no, no, that's an Old Testament thing, that's not a New Testament thing. As if somehow God changes between the old covenant and the new. No, no, actually the New Testament reveals that God upholds the tithe, and calls his people to even more. He does not change, the principles he lanes lines up for his people, do not change, he is the same yesterday, today and forever. And as he calls his people to a tithe, he is calling his people to give a 10th, that's what a tithe means. A tithe is not just any gift., a tithe is a tenth. It is 10% of what God has entrusted to us being brought back to the Lord. And the scripture reveals to us that this is the foundation for obedient biblical giving. Also in Alcorn's book The Treasure Principle, he says, "Tithing is God's historical method to get his people on the path to giving, and that sense it is the gateway to the joy of true grace giving. It is not the finish line, it is the starting blocks. Tithes can launch us into the mindset, skills, and habits of grace giving." You see, this is biblically foundational for the people of God. God does not change. He invites his people to give obediently knowing what is good, knowing what we need, knowing how quickly our hearts can wander away. And this rings true all throughout the word of God.

George Wright: 13:18 But it's also important to recognize here in a conversation on giving that God does not change, so that we can recognize what God has done for his people in Malachi 3, is also what God extends to his people today. In Malachi 3, the people of God have wandered away from God, they have wandered away from his best. And they are living defiant and disobedient, refusing to give to the Lord. And God in his forgiveness, and God in his mercy, and God in his unchanging nature, in his lavish grace, comes to the people and says, hey, I want you to know in Israel, I do not change, which is why you have not been consumed. I'm asking you to listen to what I say. I'm inviting you to return to me. God is saying, and I will pour out my grace on you. We see the incredible patience of our God, he is not destroying his people in their disobedience. Instead, he is inviting them to return to him. Malachi 3:7 says it this way, "From the days of your fathers, you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them, so return to me and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts." But you say, how shall we return. At this point in the story of the people of God, the nation of Israel has been living in the promised land for several generations, and they have been experiencing incredible blessings of God. But gradually over some time, they begin to drift away from their gratitude for God and what he had done, they began to drift away from God's best for them as a people. And they have now come to this place where they are no longer faithful givers, no longer worshiping through giving, but they're actually barely giving at all. They're practicing leftover giving. If there's anything left over, they will give it as a tip to the Lord. They've walked away, and as a result of walking away from God and his best for them, the nation of Israel began to suffer.

George Wright: 15:55 Now we would think that people who keep more for themselves would actually find themselves in a better financial situation. But what we see in the scripture is actually the opposite is true. They kept more for themselves, and things began to unravel, things began to get more stressful. And so God comes to them in his grace and in his mercy, and he lays out a challenge for his people. He invites them to return to him, and he says, I will return to you. They say, so what should we do? How do we return? Verse 8 and 9 of Malachi 3, it says this through the prophet, "Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you." Isn't it true that this statement could be said of us today in our culture, in our nation? Isn't it true that even though we have more material blessings than any nation or people in the history of the world, we are a culture of people robbing God. Some research through Christianity Today publication found that 36% of American Evangelical Christians give away less than 2% of their annual income each year. That's a third of all Evangelical Christians, I'm not talking about the church as a whole, I'm talking about Evangelical Christians, a third, give 2% or less away. That same research found that roughly 18%,15% to 20% on a good survey, 15 to 20% of Evangelical Christians give 10% or more, less than a fifth are living out what the word of God says.

George Wright: 18:23 We're robbing God. So what do we do? Well, God tells us what to do. God says, if you want to see me move in a new way, if you want to see my power at work through you for my glory, if you want to see the church of Jesus Christ, be what it could be, returned to me. How do we return? Well, let's start with the heart issue of resources. Let's talk about giving, God says. Are you praying for me to move? Let me just ask what you're doing with what I have entrusted to you. And so God lays out this amazing invitation. Malachi 3:10, "Bring the whole tithe, 10% or more, into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house." And then God says an amazing statement. We're going to talk about this in a moment, "Test me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows." The word of God is clear. Return to God, and faithfully give, and you will see God at work in your life unlike ever before. I love this old quote from Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer, he said, "I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all, but whatever I've placed in God's hands, that I still possess." You see a tithe says, I believe God can do more with 10% than I could ever do if I kept 100% for myself.

George Wright: 20:15 I want to take just a moment to let you know that this is not something that I'm preaching to you as the preacher, but this is something that is very near and dear to my heart as a follower of Jesus, and I just want to share real briefly a couple of things that Megan and I have experienced through a personal commitment to tithe or more of our annual income. Eighteen years ago, just over eighteen years ago, we walked down the aisle here at Shandon and we got married. And we made a commitment from day one in our marriage as two kids in love. Right, baby? We're still two kids in love too, so thankful for you. We made. The commitment is two kids in love that no matter what, no matter what was going on in our lives, we were going to give at least 10% of our income off the top to the Lord. Now, here's what that meant for us in our first year of marriage, we were finishing school, okay, we're finishing at Carolina. We both had part time jobs, and we made a combined income between two of us, combined income before taxes of $11,000 that first year. Mom and daddy weren't helping us out. We were paying rent. We were buying peanut butter and jelly, and ramen noodles, eating like kings, living it up. That first year of our marriage, we gave over $1,100, over 10% of our income, for the work of the Lord, and it was amazing. Students, newlyweds, young professionals, there is no better time to start faithfully honoring God than now. In fact, many people around the room would tell you it's a lot harder to start the more you have. Start now, don't wait.

George Wright: 22:12 We went off to seminary after being married for about a year, moved to Fort Worth, Texas for me to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. While we were out there, Megan got a full time job. I was working part time and we were able to put together a little bit of money and buy our first house. Now this was at the time when they were just giving mortgages away, okay, so didn't matter if you had credit or or a down pay or anything, they were just giving mortgages away. We were able to buy our first house with very little down and we loved it, we were so grateful for that first home. And then after being in Texas a couple of years, we felt the Lord calling us back to Atlanta, Georgia, where I was going to go on staff at the church where my dad pastored, Johnson Ferry Baptist. And it was going to be my first full time job in ministry, and we were so excited about that, we're about to welcome McKenna into our family, about to be new parents for the first time. We continued to tithe, even though things were incredibly tight. But for that first year of me being in full time ministry in Atlanta, our house in Texas did not sell, and so we had that mortgage hanging over our head. And we were trying to pay rent for an apartment where we were staying, and things were incredibly tight, but we continued to tithes. And after about 10 or 11 months of us not selling that house in Texas, a Christian businessman, a man of God in our church in Atlanta found out that our house had not sold. And he came to me in private and he said, George, I want you to do whatever it takes to sell this house, I want you to drop the price of the house so that you can sell it. And I said, well, I appreciate that advice, that's actually good advice, but we can't drop the price of the house to sell it because we don't have anything to bring to the table. And if we have to bring something to the table, we can't do it. If we lose money on this house, we'll be so underwater that we don't know what to do. And he said, well, whatever you have to do, drop the price and whatever money you have to bring to the table, I'll write you a check. I didn't know what to say, I was a little embarrassed, I was a little overwhelmed. I couldn't believe that this man was willing to offer us a gift like this. And so we dropped the price of the house for it to sell, and we had to bring to the table with closing costs and the money that we had lost on that home, we had to bring $13,000 to the table, little over $13,000. He wrote the check. It's crazy.

George Wright: 24:45 Fast forward a couple of years, and we're in Atlanta, and we're able to purchase a home in Atlanta. We'd welcomed McKenna, and we were about to welcome Brody into our family, we were continuing to tithe. We felt God calling us to leave where were serving, and to become the pastor of a new work, a church plant, a new work in Northwest Atlanta. And so we're going to be launched out into this new community, to pastor a new church. And we felt very strongly that we need to move to this community, to be neighbors in this community, where we would be serving. And of course that meant we had to sell our house in Atlanta to move to the other side. And we felt very strongly as we prayed together about God's calling on our life, that God was prompting us to make a sacrificial gift to this new church that I would be pastoring, this new work right up front to show, hey, we are in and we want to trust the Lord with our resources. But the problem was we didn't have hardly any money in savings, so we didn't know how we were going to be able to give more than 10%, how are we going to be able to give a sacrificial gift? And so as Megan and I prayed together, we really felt that the Lord was leading us to give the profit of the sale of our house to the church. Now I want you to know that sounds like a big step of faith, but remember we lost $13,000 the last time we sold the house, so in my mind, I'm thinking this isn't anything. I mean we get to honor God by saying we'll do this, but we're probably not going to make any money. The market was wonky, the house bubble was about to go crazy, and we didn't know if we'd make any money at all. And when our house sold, the profit we made from the sale of our house was just over $13,000, almost the exact amount that we had been given a few years earlier. And we wrote the largest check we had written in our lives and gave it to the church and celebrated. It was such a gift for us, in joy, to know that all that God was doing was reflecting his provision. This was his money to begin with, and we were now getting to give it to see him at work even more. About a year later, one of the greatest privileges of my life to this day, we got audited by the IRS. Uncle Sam looked at my income, and Uncle Sam said, there is no way possible with that income that you gave that amount of money, something is out of line. And we were able to present all the documentation to the IRS to show no, in fact, we did give this amount of money. Wouldn't it be something if among the people of God, the people of God were consistently being audited by the IRS for our charitable giving? I mean, seriously, can you imagine what might happen? How the gospel might advance through us, right? What a privilege it was to be able to see God at work in our lives, in our family. Listen, I say all this simply to make one statement as it relates to giving that we have found to be true over and over again in our 18 years of marriage, and our over 18 years of tithing or more. You can't out give God.

George Wright: 28:24 You can't out give God. A lot of people think that the church teaches giving because God needs your money. God doesn't need your money, it's not yours to begin with, it all belongs to him. He has more than he possibly needs. You can't out give God. And he wants you to experience the joy, and the gift, and the blessing, of what it means to be called a faithful giver in the sight of God. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that's what God commands his people to do at a foundational level. Here's a challenge, will you trust him in this? Will you step out on faith? The word of God says, put him to the test and see what he will do. We want to make this very practical for you. We have laid out a tithing challenge. We are laying out a tithing challenge. In your pews you're going to see little blue cards at the end of the pews. Would you go ahead and grab those if you're seated at the end, and pass them down the aisle so that everybody has a copy of one of these. We want to make sure everybody's holding one of these cards, because there's something on this card for everybody to participate in today as we wrap up our time together. We're going to lay out a three month tithing challenge for the church. For three months we are asking you to step out on faith. For those of you who are not currently tithing, or maybe you're not currently giving it all, or maybe you're giving something but you're not giving 10%, we're asking you to take a three month tithing challenge beginning in October and going through the end of the year, the end of December. See what God will do. Tithe 10% of your income for three months, and see what God will do, put him to the test. He invites you to put it into the test. And here's the fun part about this tithing challenge, and I really am excited about this. God invites his people to put him to the test, and I believe as a church, we need to trust him in that and put him to the test. And so if you commit the tithe for three months, and you tithe your 10% your income for three months, and you get to the end of this tithing challenge and you say, you know what? This was a bad idea. God did not come through. This was not a good investment. This was a waste of my time. I should not have done that. If that's how you feel at the end of the tithing challenge, here's our commitment to you, we will give you your money back. Money back guarantee. How about that for church? That's pretty good, right? A money back guarantee. And here's why, because God says, put him into the test, and we want you to trust him in what he says. So I believe you have nothing to lose, and I believe we have nothing to lose. Let's step out on faith together, and let's see what God might do.

George Wright: 31:50 So three boxes for you to check, you can put your information at the top, we want to shoot you some information about biblical giving. We got some resources we want to put in your hands, so put your info there. And you can check that first box, I am a tither. Many of you are tithers, and you are faithful to give 10% or more of your income, maybe this is the time for you to pray about another step of faith. Maybe for you the tithe has become very routine, and very easy, and God is prompting you to step by faith to do even more to see how he will work through you. But you can check that box, I am a tither. You can check that second box, I am accepting the three month tithing challenge, and if you check that box, we want to get you a copy of The Treasure Principle, the book that I quoted a couple of times in this sermon, it's a great resource. You will greatly appreciate it, as it unpacks even more fully what biblical giving is all about, and what the word of God says. There is a third box there that says, I'm not ready to tithe, but I would like a copy of The Treasure Principle, we would love to provide this book for you. You may be here this morning saying, I'm not ready for this, this feels like too big of a step. I'm just not ready. And that's fine, you can be honest there, and we will provide that resource for you. I do want you to know we almost put a fourth box, and we decided not to just because we didn't want to offend anybody. But the fourth box was going to say, I'm going to continue to intentionally rob God. But you know, I kind of got out voted on that one, we didn't want to offend anybody so it's not there. So don't be offended by the fact that I said it, right? But there is a box for everybody, I'm a tither, or I'll take the tithing challenge, or I'm not ready, but I'd like a copy of this book and some more info. Just drop these cards at the door when you leave, we've got some buckets at the doors, and we'd love to be able to follow up with you. Let's see what God will do. Please hear me, I'm not saying God's going to give you everything you want if you tithe, that's not what this is about at all. But I do believe if you step out on faith and tithe and honor the Lord with what he has entrusted to you, you will see God at work in ways that you never have before.

George Wright: 34:10 Malachi 3:11-12, I'll close with this, God says, Return to me, bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, (Verse 11.) then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground, nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes, says the Lord of hosts. All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land, says the Lord of hosts." What is it in your life right now, that you've been praying for God to do? And yet if you're honest, you've been incredibly stingy with him, while you're asking him to be generous with you. What would happen if you just changed that narrative altogether and you say, God, I'm going to trust you even though this hasn't happened yet, even though I haven't heard from you yet, even though I don't know what you're doing, I'm going to trust you and believe that you have more for me and your best will be revealed. We trust God in this. Let's take the tithing challenge, let's see what God does. It is my prayer that there are some really exciting, and really fun, stories that we're going to get to share in the months ahead.

George Wright: 35:26 Would you pray with me as we conclude our time this morning. Heavenly Father, it is a tremendous gift and a tremendous blessing to be reminded that you are a good father, that every good and perfect gift comes from above. You have blessed us in so many ways beyond what we deserve. And yet the reality is some of us have taken advantage of that blessing, and some of us have not trusted you with what you have entrusted to us. And so Lord, I pray, I pray that our hearts would change, and I pray that there would be steps of faith taken among your people in a beautiful way for your glory. I pray, Lord God, that we would see you at work in ways that we never have before, as we test your word, and know that your word is right and good and true. Show us your power, this is my prayer. We love you, and we want to follow you, so give us the faith to follow. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206