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Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 21, 2003

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Deuteronomy 8:11-20. This morning we're focusing on stewardship - and especially financial stewardship.

There’s a story that takes place in a small café up in Alaska. The owner was this really strong husky muscular guy. This owner was so strong that the local patrons had a standing $1,000 bet. The owner would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass and then hand the lemon to a contender. Anyone who could squeeze just one more drop of juice out of the lemon would win the $1,000. Over time many people tried - weightlifters - lumberjack - big tough guys. But, nobody could do it.

One day a short - thin - balding - little man came into the café - wearing thick black rimmed glasses and a polyester suit. He announced - in a faint - tiny - squeaky voice, “I’ll take that bet.”

After the laughter died down, the café owner said, “OK” - grabbed a lemon and squeezed it. Then he handed the dry - wrinkled - remains of the lemon rind to the little man. The man clenched his fist around the lemon and the crowd’s laughter turned to total silence as one drop - then another and another - six drops in all fell into the glass.

The man was paid the $1,000 and asked, “What do you do for a living? You’re obviously not a lumberjack or weightlifter.”

With an almost imperceptible smile the little man replied in a quiet voice, “I work for the IRS.” (1)

Sadly - when it comes to talking about financial stewardship - money - sometimes that’s people’s impression of the church. We’re trying to squeeze people for money. “All the church is interested in is my money.”

Please hear this - our goal this morning is not to make anyone feel guilty or to make a pitch for money. Financial stewardship is never intended by God to be a guilt thing. Stewardship of money - giving in obedience to God’s will and direction - is intended by God to help us grow closer to God - to experience His blessings - to live in a deepening - dependent - relationship with Him. That's where our focus is this morning. How giving God's way helps draw us into a deepening relationship with Him.

Deuteronomy 8:11-20 - The Hebrew nation is at the Jordan River - ready to enter the Promised Land - Moses is speaking. He's giving a warning to the Hebrew nation - a sobering warning that’s as relevant today as it was when Moses first gave it.

Starting at verse 11: “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God, by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes, which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good to you in the end. Otherwise, you might say in your heart, `My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.' But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the Lord your God."

The bottom line of what Moses says is this: When God blesses you materially remember that it was God who blessed you. Remembering God - Financial stewardship - is giving in obedience to God’s will and direction. God - when we do that - rather than judging us - God blesses us and we experience a deepening relationship with Him.

As I’ve been thinking through Moses’ warning - how what he said can be applied to our lives today - I'd like to share four foundational principles of tithing. (2) My goal in sharing these principles is not to preach about tithing in the sense that you must give 10%. There’s more to tithing than the number ten. So, let’s agree together that we’re not going to get stuck on the number 10.

Tithing is an act of rememberring God - an expression of our personal relationship with God. My goal in sharing these principles of tithing that help us to do what Moses is talking about - so that we can experience God’s continued blessing and a deepening relationship with Him.

So, here are the four principles of tithing. First: THE PRINCIPLE OF REGULARITY

To tithe is to give regularly - week in and week out - perhaps monthly. We give obediently when the time comes to give - purposefully - regardless of our current mood or circumstances.

Let’s be honest - money represents days and hours of sweat and tears. There’s a certain amount of pain in giving. We’re giving a part of ourselves. The decision to remember God and give regularly takes a lot of that pain away. When the time comes to give the question of to give or not to give - is already settled. Prayerfully - before God - we make one basic decision. Then it's simply a matter of carrying out that decision regularly and systematically.

First giving is regular. Second: THE PRINCIPLE OF PROPORTIONALITY

John Wesley was a teacher at Oxford University back in the 1700's. When he began his career he was paid 30 pounds per year - in those days a lot of money. His living expenses were 28 pounds - so he gave 2 pounds away.

The next year his income doubled - but he still managed to live on 28 pounds - so he gave away 32 pounds. The third year he earned 90 pounds - lived on 28 - gave away 62. The years went by. One year his income was a little over 1,400 pounds - he lived on 30 and gave away nearly all of the 1,400 pounds.

Wesley felt that the Christian should not merely tithe but give away all extra income once the family and creditors were taken care of. He believed that with increasing income, what should rise is not the Christian's standard of living but the standard of giving. Have you heard that?

God blesses us not so we can spend more on ourselves - better cars - bigger houses - more toys. God blesses us materially because He want to use those resources according to His will - for His glory - in His work of redeeming mankind from sin.

When we start totaling up a church budget and dividing it by the number of giving units to determine "what's my share" or what's expected of every member - it puts us in the driver seat. When we look at the church’s income and say to ourselves, “The church is doing great financially. I don’t need to give so much.” - we’re forgetting that God has a purpose in blessing us.

Tithing encourages us to examine our real needs - to consider our income - our resources - our blessings - in order to determine - in obedience - what share God would have us give. The bottom line question is, "How much can I give for God's work?"

The first principle was? “Regularity.” Second? “Proportionality.” Third: THE PRINCIPLE OF PRIORITY

There's a story about a farmer who went into the house one day to tell his wife and family some good news. He said, "The cow just gave birth to twin calves, one black and one white. We need to dedicate one of these calves to the Lord. We'll bring them up together, and when the time comes, we'll sell one and keep the proceeds and we'll sell the other and give the proceeds to the Lord's work."

When his wife asked him which one he was going to dedicate to the Lord. The farmer said, "There's no need to think about that now, we'll treat them both the same way, and when the time comes, we'll do as I say."

A few days later, the farmer came into the kitchen looking very unhappy. His wife asked, "What happened?" The farmer replied, "I have bad news. The Lord's calf is dead."

His wife said, "Wait, you didn't decide which calf was the Lord's."

The farmer said, "Yes, I decided it was the white one, and the white one died. The Lord's calf is dead." (3)

It may seem prudent to take care of all our necessities and then to look around to see if something is left for God. But honestly - it’s amazing how many “necessities” we have that can eat up our resources.

To tithe is to put God first - to set aside God's share first - off the top - the gross - the net - whatever - not the bottom. When we do that it reorganizes our life. All that beautiful language about "God first, others are second, and I'm third" becomes concrete and actual. Say these with me: “Regularity - Proportionality - Priority” - Fourth: THE PRINCIPLE OF TRUST

A young man told his pastor he'd promised God a tithe of his income. They prayed for God to bless his career. At that time he was making $500 per week and tithing $50. In a few years his income increased and he was tithing $500 per week - pretty good money.

The man called the pastor to see if he could be released from his tithing promise. It was too costly now. The pastor replied, "I don't see how you can be released from your promise. But we can ask God to reduce your income to back to $500 per week. Then you'd have no problem tithing $50." (4)

Giving is a very difficult issue to talk about. Especially in these days with all the demands on our finances. There are some very hard choices that we need to make. Providing for our families - planning for retirement - living - even in the central valley - isn’t cheap. Our dollars get stretched.

Most of us can't see how we're going to live off 100% of our income. If we give 5% away, can we really make it on 95%? If we give 15% away can we really make it on 85%?

Deeply imbedded in tithing is the principle of trust. If we actually give God the priority - take God's share off the top - then we begin to trust God - trusting God's promise that He’ll take care of our needs. We may have to simplify life or do without. But giving that doesn't reorganize our life and remind us that God is the one who provides - that God is to be remembered and honored - if giving doesn’t make us step out in faith - giving will not deepen our relationship with God.

Four principles: “Regularity - Proportionality - Priority - Trust.”

In thinking about how these four principles apply to us - let me ask you two questions. See what you think. Is 10% a floor so that anyone giving less than 10% is living in disobedience to God? Or - second question - is 10% a ceiling, so that if we make that ceiling - if we give our 10% - we never need to give anything above that?

Its very interesting that the New Testament nowhere lays this 10% guilt trip on us. Jesus talked incessantly about money. But only twice does He mention the tithe. Both times because of its abuse.

The Apostle Paul never mentions 10%. But he does write about the same principles that we just talked about. Paul summarizes New Testament giving this way - 1 Corinthians 16:2 - "On the first day of every week, - that is, give regularly - each one of you is to put something aside and store it up - that is that God's part comes off first - as he may prosper..." - give proportionately. And then, in Philippians 4:19 he says, "My God will supply every need of yours" - so give trusting God.

In the freedom that Jesus gives us - in prayerful personal accountability before God - we’re responsible to understand the percentage God would have us give. God knows that some of us have heavy obligations - children in college - aging parents - or that we may be deeply in debt from some catastrophe. Others of us may be relatively free - children grown and on their own - only ourselves and our retirement to think of. There are some who can tithe in the sense of giving regularly, proportionately, with priority and trust in God with a proportion of less than 10 %. There are others who wouldn’t be tithing in that sense until they give 20%, 30%, or even more.

Here’s the point - It’s not the percentage God is after. It’s our heart.

I read something a while back. I want to share it with you because it puts all this giving and our relationship with God in perspective.

Jesus gives to us salvation - joy - peace - healing - security - eternity. Man marvels at such a pearl and says, "I want this pearl. How much does it cost?"

The seller says, "Its too dear - too costly."
"But how much?"
"Well, its very expensive."
"Do you think I could buy it?"
"It cost everything you have - no more - no less - anybody can buy it."
"I'll buy it."
"What do you have? Let's write it down."
"I have $16,929.10 in the bank."
"Good, $16,929.10. What else?"
"I don't have anything else. That's all I have."
"Nothing else?"
"Well, I have some money in my pocket."
"How much?"
"Well, 30, 40, 46, $47.23."
"Great. What else do you have?"
"That's it."
"Where do you live?"
"I live in my house."
"The house too."
"You mean I have to live in the garage?"
"You have a garage? That too. What else?"
"You probably want the car too."
"You have a car?"
"Well, actually - two."
"Both cars - what else? - wife?"
"Yes, I have a wife and two children."
"Your wife and children - what else?"
"I have nothing else. I'm left alone now."

"Good, you too. Everything becomes mine. Wife, children, house, money, cars, everything. And you too. Now you can use all those things here but don't forget they're mine, as you are. When I need any of the things you're using, you must give them to me because now I'm the owner." (5)

When we turn our lives over to Jesus it costs us everything. When we give to God we live in the reality of that relationship. Giving with regularity, in proportion, with priority, with trust - deepens our dependence on God and reminds us that He is still sovereign over the provision for our daily lives and over our relationship with Him.



1.  Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes, 1998, page 393
2.  Rev. Albert Winn, Tithing Is More Than The Number Ten, Decatur, Georgia
3.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Morning Glory, 01.17.94
4.  A Guidebook for Pastors, page 156
5.  Juan Carlos Ortiz, Call to Discipleship, Plainfield, NJ, Logos International, 1975 - quoted in Leadership IV