Here is a voice mail greeting by a college student who developed a somewhat inconsistent view of stewardship: “Hi. This is John. If you are the phone company, I already sent the money. If you are my parents, please send money. If you are my financial aid institution, you didn’t lend me enough money. If you are my friends, you owe me money. If you are a female, don’t worry, I have plenty of money.”
In a Wizard Of Id comic, a couple greets a Friar Tuck-type outside the front doors of the Church. The wife says to the Friar, “I apologize for my baby’s crying in church…she’s teething.” The Friar replies, “No problem…but why was your husband crying?” The wife responds, “He’s TITHING!”
Annually, Americans give 19.6 billion to churches. Isn’t that wonderful? As a nation that we are so generous as to give 19.6 billion! That is tempered by the fact that we spend 26.6 billion on lottery tickets each year. A lot of people are willing to give God credit, but so few ever give Him cash.
Jesus tells this story, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. The noble man is God. He has come and served and has now taken his proper place. “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ A minas was the money of that time and is worth about $15.00. $15.00 in that day was a lot of money. In scripture, money and talent are interchangeable. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
“He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
“The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’ “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them– bring them here and kill them in front of me.'”
The lesson that we have had the most difficult time with is that God owns everything! He is King and Lord! Ever read bumper stickers? “God loves a cheerful giver, but he will also take money from a grouch.” There is no other topic in all the New Testament that Jesus spent more time on than stewardship. There is no other topic in the New Testament that we turn a deaf ear to, than stewardship.
You remember Jack Benny? He always did the same routine over and over again.
A robber comes up to him and says, “Your money or your life?” There is no answer. Then the question again: “Your money or your life?” Benny still does not say anything. The robber says it a third time: “Your money or your life?” Jack Benny finally answers: “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.” That is what stewardship is all about. It’s trying to get you to think about your money or your life. It wants you to ask the question. Does Jesus really want just my money, or does He want my life? The church is not an organization with supporters and benefactors. The church is to be a body of disciples. It is not an organization you give dues to. It’s a cause you give your life to. You see, we have as Disciples never gotten the right perspective! It is not that the Church needs our money. It is that we need to give to the Church.
Jesus tells another parable, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
God can give Himself to us only in the measure in which we give ourselves to him.
The pastor was visiting one of his congregants who lay dying in the hospital. The pastor leaned over the bed and asked the man, “Is there anything I can do to ease your pain; do you have any final requests, my beloved friend?” The man tried to prop himself up but could not do so. As the dying man fell back to his bed, he gasped, “Yes, Pastor, there is one thing you could do; could you please stop sending these pledge envelopes?”
It has never been about what we need to support the budget. It has never been about what it takes to build an addition onto this facility. It has never been about what it will cost to get the word of God to people who have never hear it. It is all about that a gracious and generous God has given us an allowance and the question faces us, are we faithful?
The Apostle Paul understood the project of trying to raise money for the church in Jerusalem. To do so he did not print up any raffle tickets or try to sell a pie or a picnic basket. He did not buy any fish to fry or organize bingo games. When there was a need, Paul wrote to the churches and asked them to give from what they had, to share from their leanness and their abundance.
The “tithe” (1/10 of our income) is the standard God established. It has never changed. To my knowledge there are no loopholes to this issue. It is the same standard in the New Testament as the Old. The “offering” was any and everything above and beyond the tithe. No where does God ever justify someone who gave less than a tithe. But everywhere there is praise for the one that gives everything.
Millard Fuller was a millionaire by the age of twenty-nine. As such, he could buy his wife “everything” he thought she possibly could want. But one day he came home to discover that she had left him. Millard went after her. He caught up with her on a Saturday night in a hotel in New York City. They talked into the wee hours of the next morning as she poured out her heart and made him see that she wasn’t interested in the things he was buying her. Her heart was empty and her spirit was burned out, she explained. She was dead inside and she wanted to live again. Kneeling at their bedside in that hotel room, Millard and Linda made a radical decision. They decided to sell everything they had and dedicate themselves to serving poor people and to working for justice for the oppressed. The next day being Sunday, they found a church and went there to worship and thank God for their new beginning. They hunted up the minister, and told him about what had happened to them and the decision they had made. To their surprise, the minister told them that such a radical decision was not really necessary. “He told us that it was not necessary for us to give up everything,” Millard said. “He just didn’t understand that we weren’t giving up money and the things that money could buy. We were giving up a whole way of life that was killing us.” Millard and Linda Fuller were the founders of HABITAT FOR HUMANITY.
It happened last Saturday evening. Darkness had settled over Wichita. It was another of those warm, cloudless nights. Too warm for some to sleep – a good time to roam; nothing else to do. “Mom or Pop don’t care (I wish they did). Let’s go.”
“Hey, there’s a church. It’s dark, no one around. Let’s see if a door is open. Nope! How about a window? Crash!!! Yep, one’s open now. The pastor’s desk was ransacked. The doors to the church office were pried open and ruined; the secretary’s desk and filing cabinets were hurriedly searched. This was discovered on Sunday morning. Someone robbed the Church! Was last week really any different from this Sunday? The sun was high. The sky was blue, fleecy clouds drifted by overhead. A perfect day for worship — and a robbery! The service began right on time — it was 10:45 a.m. sharp. We sang, we meditated, we prayed — and then it happened. The ushers passed the offering plate, I dropped my dollar in, and sent it on. There, I did it! “I” robbed God! The next morning…No one is aware of what I have done. No window broken, no doors pried open, no pillage occurred.
But, somebody will not hear the Gospel because a robbery took place yesterday in the sanctuary. ‘Sir, here is your dollar; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth.
I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ Lie! I just didn’t want to give it.
Do you tithe your allowance from God?