Posts Tagged ‘money’

Numbers 18:8-32

Support for the Priests & the Levites

I am going to pull no punches today. This is a straight up challenge to who we say we are as Christians…

Have you ever wondered why churches struggle to make ends meet? Sure, there are large mega-churches out there that seem to have turned that corner and have sufficient funds to do whatever they want (or so it seems from the outside). The average church, according to Barna Research and other church statistical sources, of my church’s size, 600 per Sunday, with an average potential 350 in giving units (families or singles who are your potential givers), typically operates on a budget of $750,000. A budget of $750,000 would mean that weekly giving (online, mail and Sunday morning) averages around $14,425 per week. Statistics show that in churches of my church’s size, you will actually average about 115 giving units per Sunday (out of the average 350 giving units that attend each Sunday). That means these 115 giving units give about $125 per week. Certainly that is the average, there are a select few who give extremely generously each Sunday and there are those who give a $10 spot each each but must be counting as a giving unit. That means too that there less than half the average 600 attendee church, 115 out of 400 giving units, actually gives to the church or 33.28% of mid-sized churches give to their church.

 

In churches my church’s size in the Southeast in suburban areas (where our church finds itself – in a suburban area of the Greenville-Spartanburg metropolitan statistical area), the average income of church attendees is about $50,000 gross income before deductions. If we take that out to its potential, each giving unit in a 600 attendee church should tithe $5,000 annually. If each potential giving unit, all 350 of them in a 600 attendee church, making an average of $50,000 annually gave 10% annually, the average church budget would $1,750,000 for a 600 member church. Wow! What a difference that would be if we all just did what we are commanded to do.

 

I know that this sounds all financial and everything but I am a financial guy who is passionate about being obedient to the Lord in this area. What if we had all our potential giving units giving in our churches today. What if the church did not have to choose between ministry and paying the preacher? What if the church did not have choose between pay the electric bill and doing ministry outside the four walls of the church? What if we could have pastors who could take care of their families instead of scrimping by and praying that they have enough money to send their kids to college when the time comes? What if we could fully fund a helps ministry that helps people with getting themselves out of poverty? What if we had the money to help teenage girls who have gotten pregnant? What if we had the money to help get girls who have had to succumb to prostitution off the the streets and teach them marketable skills? What if we could fund missionaries who go to foreign nations and help girls get out the sex trafficking trade? What if we had the money to go into the cities and open satellite churches and really make a difference through education and outreach to street gang kids? What if we could help the little old lady living in a dilapidated house just down the road from the church? What if we thought more of that than spending 104% of what we make on ourselves? What if we tithed or more? What if we put our money where our mouth is about being a Christian? What if we lived off of 90% or less of what we make as God has commanded us to do?

 

It was that idea that God made provision for the ministry of the Tabernacle by requiring the Israelites to tithe of their crops and animals. It got me to thinking about how we as the modern church could learn so much from being obedient to the Lord in the area of finances and giving. We have written off the need to support the church. We have abdicated our responsibility to “they”. They will take care of it. I don’t have to. If we cannot be obedient in the area of supporting the church, it breeds a take it or leave attitude when it comes to obeying God. We see how that has worked out for the Israelites throughout the Old Testament. Let’s read what God commands about supporting the ministers and ministry of the Tabernacle, in Numbers 18:8-32:

8 Then the Lord said to Aaron, “I myself have put you in charge of the offerings presented to me; all the holy offerings the Israelites give me I give to you and your sons as your portion, your perpetual share. 9 You are to have the part of the most holy offerings that is kept from the fire. From all the gifts they bring me as most holy offerings, whether grain or sin[a] or guilt offerings, that part belongs to you and your sons. 10 Eat it as something most holy; every male shall eat it. You must regard it as holy.

 

11 “This also is yours: whatever is set aside from the gifts of all the wave offerings of the Israelites. I give this to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it.

 

12 “I give you all the finest olive oil and all the finest new wine and grain they give the Lord as the firstfruits of their harvest. 13 All the land’s firstfruits that they bring to the Lord will be yours. Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it.

 

14 “Everything in Israel that is devoted[b] to the Lord is yours. 15 The first offspring of every womb, both human and animal, that is offered to the Lord is yours. But you must redeem every firstborn son and every firstborn male of unclean animals. 16 When they are a month old, you must redeem them at the redemption price set at five shekels[c] of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.

 

17 “But you must not redeem the firstborn of a cow, a sheep or a goat; they are holy. Splash their blood against the altar and burn their fat as a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. 18 Their meat is to be yours, just as the breast of the wave offering and the right thigh are yours. 19 Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the Lord I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.”

 

20 The Lord said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.

 

21 “I 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. 22 From now on the Israelites must not go near the tent of meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die. 23 It is the Levites who are to do the work at the tent of meeting and bear the responsibility for any offenses they commit against it. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. 24 Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the Lord. That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.’”

 

25 The Lord said to Moses, 26 “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering. 27 Your offering will be reckoned to you as grain from the threshing floor or juice from the winepress. 28 In this way you also will present an offering to the Lord from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the Lord’s portion to Aaron the priest. 29 You must present as the Lord’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.’

 

30 “Say to the Levites: ‘When you present the best part, it will be reckoned to you as the product of the threshing floor or the winepress. 31 You and your households may eat the rest of it anywhere, for it is your wages for your work at the tent of meeting. 32 By presenting the best part of it you will not be guilty in this matter; then you will not defile the holy offerings of the Israelites, and you will not die.’”

 

 

Do you think God just might bless us if we obeyed Him? We are no longer under the penalty of the law in Jesus Christ but Jesus said He came to fulfill the law not abolish it. Paul tells us that we should be generous givers because of what Jesus has done for us. Paul felt that 10% was just a starting point not a stopping point. He felt that we should give that and more to help the ministry of the gospel. The Lord will bless those who obey Him. He will bless you with a new perspective when you tithe and more. He will breed in you a heart of generosity rather than a self-seeking selfishness. When you give to the Lord first, you see things in a different way that begins to permeate through the rest of your life. When you give to the Lord first in your finances, you begin to put him first in everything else. When you give to the Lord first in your finances, you see that the rat race of collecting things means nothing in eternity. When you give to the Lord first in your finances, you think of giving to make eternal things happen instead of what newest thing you can buy that you think will fill your soul. It’s funny how it changes your perspective. It sure changed my and Elena’s attitude about our money. It actually changed everything when we worked out where in our finances to where we could get rid of debts and could begin to tithe. I would dare say that beginning to tithe was the beginning of seeing the world from God’s perspective and see his generosity to us be generosity that we must repeat.

 

Think about obeying the Lord and changing the perspective. Think of giving instead of collecting. Think of living off less and living more joyfully. Think of being free to be generous rather than being a slave to your debts. Think about it. Just think of the impact that our churches could have if we all were obedient to the Lord and were generous givers to the cause of Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 17:24-27 (Part 2)
The Temple Tax

There are stories that I hear from fellow church members through the years how the Lord has provided for them financially at just the right time and in just the right moment, when we are obedient in our giving to honor Him – when we tithe. My friend, Candice Brevard, going on her first mission trip is given a gift of money to finish paying for her trip as they were loading up the church van to head to the airport. When I was trying to clean up my credit of some bad debts seven years ago, I was able to negotiate lowered payoffs for these debts and all of it worked out to be exactly the amount of annual bonus at work less my tithe. My friend, Anthony Weston, has his story of how a neighbor made it possible for his mission trip without the neighbor directly giving toward his mission trip. There are people who have had no idea how they were going to follow God’s call to full time ministry or to full time mission work, but God always makes a way for them. There are many other stories out there about God being on time in the nick of time in just the right amount for those who are obedient to Him with their lives and with their finances. The thing is that most of us do not trust God with our finances and do not trust that when we follow Him obediently that He will make a way for us. So, let’s re-read the passage:
24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

26 “From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

How much do you trust Jesus? Apparently, Peter did. We do not read anything after this about Peter balking at what Jesus said. We hear nothing else from this scene. So, two things happened by deductive reasoning since the scene ends here. Peter did what Jesus told him to do and the tax was paid. Peter was obedient and there was provision. Jesus recognized the need and made provision. Jesus knew the need was an honorable one and He made a way for the obligation to be satisfied.

That’s the thing that I think we need to chew on today. Many of us do not really trust God with our lives and we definitely don’t trust Him with our money. First, let’s talk about trusting Him with our lives. Many of us trust God up to a point in this area. However, have you really trusted God with your future? Sometimes, God calls us to do the unusual, the out of the ordinary. Sometimes, He may call us to open a soup kitchen and make that our life’s work and walk away from a good paying job to do it. He may call us to move 800 miles away to plant a church in a spiritual dark part of the country where only 2% of people attend church regularly. He may call you to leave a cushy job and leave your sons or daughters behind when you do that. He may call you to full time ministry when you have built a career in a different vocation for many years. He may call you to move to another continent to work to free young girls from the sex slavery trade even though you have never had exposure to that type of thing before in your life. He may call you simply to go on a one-week mission trip to Africa, Central America, South America, or Asia. How much do you trust Him? Do you believe He will provide a way? Do you really trust God? Do you trust Him enough not to listen to friends who want you to stay in your comfort zone and theirs? Do you use excuses for why it can be done instead of trusting that it will be done. Do you find reasons for not doing what God called you to do because it is just easier not to. It is easier to do the easy thing. John F. Kennedy once said,

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” (from speech at Rice University, September 12, 1962).
God does not call us to the easy. He calls us to the challenges that need to be faced in the name of Jesus. He calls to do the difficult things because they need doing. He calls not to the easy things but to the hard things. He called Moses to free his people from the mightiest empire on earth at that time, the Egyptian Empire. It was not easy. It was hard. It took 10 plagues and leaving in the middle of the night. It took miracles. Through it all Moses trusted in the Lord. Sure, he had his times of doubt but He always bottom line trusted in the Lord. God calls us to serve our fellow man not because it is easy but because it is hard and because it needs doing. Through serving our fellow man we get to tell them of Jesus. When we do what seems impossibly tough, we learn too to depend on the provision of God. Isn’t that what He really wants from us is to fully depend on Him. When we step out of our comfort zones where we are king and into the unknown we learn to put God first because He is the only way that we are going to accomplish what He called us to do. The story in this passage abruptly ends because Peter obeyed even though it sounded far-fetched and beyond reason. But because of Peter’s obedience, the provision was there. God orchestrated someone losing a coin near the shore. God orchestrated the fish finding and swallowing the coin. God orchestrated the timing of Peter’s line in the water at the same time the fish with coin was swimming by. He made the moment happen. He created the intersection. He will make provision for us as well when we trust Him with our lives. He will make a way for us when we fully trust Him and follow His calling on our lives.

We also have to learn to trust Him with our finances as well. So many of us get it backwards from the beginning. We learn to spend, spend, spend. We never learn to put God first in our finances. From the beginning we place our needs over our obedience to the Lord. We go to church and we hear about how we should be obedient to the Lord in our finances. We give our $20 that we have left over from the weekend in our wallet and we call that tithing. That is not tithing unless you make $200 or less per pay period. We give God our leftovers. We do not trust to live the tithing lifestyle. We want more toys. We are taught that whoever has the most toys in the end wins. We spend more than we make in most cases. Then, our obedience to the Lord in our giving becomes a far off concept. We pat ourselves on the backs when we actually do give instead of most weeks where we do not. Why did we not learn at an earlier age that spending less and saving more is God-ordained. Why did we not learn to live off of 90% or less of what we make? Man, I have my first grandchild due in July of this year. From the beginning, I am going to teach this blessedly awaited child to save and to tithe. I want her (notice I said her – trusting the Lord on that one!) to learn that just because you make it does not mean you spend it. I want to grow up learning the blessings of obediently tithing from the beginning so that she does not have to suffer with the consequences of disobedience in our lives. I want her to make the right choice to learn to live on 90% or less than what she makes from the beginning. I don’t want her to have to carve out the painful overspending so that she can get to a place where she can honor God with the first 10% or more of her money. There is a peace in the obedience to the Lord in our finances. When Elena and I decided to quit running the rat race of having more and more and newer and newer and started paying off all our debts there is a peace that comes. You learn that newer and newer is not always better and better. You learn satisifaction with what you have. You learn that the Lord will honor and bless your obedience when you are not so caught up in having the next greatest thing. It’s all just toys. It’s all just temporary. Honoring God with our finances is a path to peace and a path to understanding the eternal ways of God. He will provide for us. We don’t need newer, better, faster, if we have our relationship in order with God. There is no more of a deep core way to start your path to living a life that is God honoring that to begin with your finances. It is the basic thing of life – how we spend our money. If as children we learn to set aside 10% or more to honor God, man, how much easier our life will be and how more of a basic way to make God honoring a part of your daily life than that! Let us commit as adults to teach our children this. Let us commit as adults to begin to arrange our lives in this way so that we can work our way to honoring God with the first 10% or more of our income. When we learn to honor God with our finances, He gives us peace and He blesses our understanding of the fact that we honor Him. I know there are those who make honoring God with your money about this investment-payback scenario but the real payback is not in financial blessings that He gives us but rather is not being a slave to our money and seeing our money as a way to honor God. We must trust God on this one. The blessings are not always financial but rather in the peace that passes all understanding, the peace of knowing you are honoring your Creator. We must trust Him. We must be like Peter. We hear the command and we obey. The scene ends. No other information is needed. We trust. We obey. We depend on the provision of God…with finances, with our very lives, and our life’s work.

There is an old hymn that says it best. It was written by John Sammis in 1887 and part of it goes like this:

But we never can prove
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay
For the favor He shows
For the joy He bestows
Are for them who will trust and obey

Trust and obey
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey.

Trust and obey is what Peter did. The coin was there. May we do the same with our lives and with our finances. Amen and Amen.

Luke 16:1-18 — In vv. 10-11, Jesus hits us square in the eye when he says, ““If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?”

Our integrity is often on the line when it comes to matters of money. God calls us to be honest even in the small details of life that sometimes we often ignore. If we are not trustworthy with our money, no matter how much or how little we have, we cannot be trusted with greater riches of the kingdom of God. How often do we cut corners morally when it comes to money. Nobody will know. Everybody does it. God sees how we use every dime we have. There are several ways that we show God how trustworthy we are when it comes to money. First, how do we honor God with our money. Second, how transparent are we with our money dealings. In the business world, we have to issue financial statements to our senior management and to the outside world. We have to go through year-end audits where our financial statements are picked over by the auditors to make sure that we are using our stockholders resources in a wise, efficient, legal and moral manner. What if we were required to personally issue financial statements to the outside world on a regular basis? What if we had auditors come in at the end of the year and validate our the rightness of our financial statements and the financial dealings that they represent?

First, how do we honor God with our money? In Randy Alcorn’s book, The Treasure Principle, he references a saying, “show me your checkbook. Show me what you invest in, and I’ll tell you about the depth of your spirituality.” I have also heard the saying expressed this way, “show me your checkbook and I’ll show you what you worship.” The sentiment is this is that our financial dealings are a reflection of our relationship with our Creator. If we are dishonest with our money, if we worship things more than we worship God, it is reflected in our personal financial statements. If people would create their own personal financial statements each month like most businesses do, we would see in black and white what is important to us and how we deal with others financially. If we created financial statements, would it show that you swindled a friend to make a fast buck. It would show up in your personal financial statements. There is another old saying from sports, “ball don’t lie” (meaning that a person’s true talent will come out when they get in the game). Checkbook don’t lie. Financial statements don’t lie. If we honor God with our money, our financial statements will reflect it. Cutting corners on taxes, spending money in dishonorable ways, spending money on things that are far from God, all of these things would be reflected in our personal financial statements. Let us take account of how we honor God with our money. Are we being God honoring with every dime we spend or find? Jesus says that if He can’t trust to have integrity with our worldly money, how can He trust us with the riches of the kingdom.

Second, how transparent are you with your money? When I was speaking of personal financial statements earlier, would you be willing to share them with others. Are you willing to let others see what you spend your money on. Outsiders looking at what you spend your money on. There are some husbands and wives out there that have separate checking accounts. What does this say about what they spend their money on? What does this say about their marriage? If you don’t share your finances, your checking account, with your spouse what does this say about us? Excuses are that we each have our responsibilities and we pay for them. We have debts that we brought to the marriage that the other should not have to be touched by. All of this seems a nice argument. However, it boils down to not trusting your spouse or not being willing to share what you spend your money on with your spouse. It just amazes me when spouses don’t share the basics of family finance, the checking account. What if we were required to issue personal financial statements to our spouses to view? What if you together were required to issue personal financial statements to a friend that you respect highly? What if? There is also an old saying that says, before you do something think about whether you would want your mother reading about it in a newspaper the next day. What if we thought about how we spent our money in this way? If you knew your checkbook was going to be a headline in the newspaper tomorrow would you spend it on what you’re spending it on. I am not trying to guilt anyone into to good behavior here but the point is clear, Jesus wants us to be open and transparent in our dealings with money. We should want that as an act of worship to Him. Our money, what we spend it on, should reflect integrity, honesty, morality, and be God-honoring. Our checkbooks should be an open book for the world to see, warts and all. Our dealings with others when it comes to money should reflect these same principles. Let us not go to church on Sunday and agree with the preacher when he says we should love our fellow man but yet go to work next week and screw our co-worker over to get a raise, to get more money. Let us not read this passage and agree with it and go out and sell a car to a stranger knowing full well that the transmission is about to fall out of it. Let our dealing with others financially reflect a God-honoring sense of integrity.

The love of money has sold many a man’s integrity down the river. None of us are perfect and we all have cut corners morally when it comes to money. Have you been completely honest always when it comes to money? Sometimes our pragmatic needs outweigh our morality and we fail when it comes to money. However, for the Christ follower, our integrity when it comes to money speaks to the world around us. As well, when we are dishonest with money or in dealing with others about money, the Holy Spirit should be making us feel sick to our stomach. We have the Holy Spirit living in us and we grieve Him when we are dishonest in our money dealings. Jesus tells us that He wants us to have the riches of the kingdom but He says how can I trust you when you cheat on your taxes? How can I trust you when you screw someone over to make a buck? How can I trust you when you do something immoral to get more money? Let us really pray about this issue. Our dealings with money reflect to the world who we are as Christians.

Help us Lord to think about how we act about money. Help us to honor you with our dealing with money. Help us to reflect Christian principles in how we use it, obtain it, spend it, think about it, you name it. Help us to use it as a tool that uplifts rather than destroys. Help us to use it to develop trust rather than distrust. Help us to use it to right wrongs rather than to create wrongs. Help us to use it to make the world a better place rather than a more immoral on. Help us to use it to fight injustice rather than create injustices. Help us to use it help others to lift themselves out of their situation rather than to create situations that oppress others. Help us to use it to show the love of Christ to others. Help us to honor you with it in all the ways we use it. Amen.