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Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 15, 2012

This morning I’m going to do something a little bit different.  I’d like to share a message that I shared about two years ago - most of which has been recently printed in The Connection.  So I hope that most of what we share this morning will sound pretty familiar.  Which, by the way, means that if you’ve heard the jokes before - humor me - and laugh anyway.

My reason for sharing this message again is not to say to the congregation  that you all aren’t getting it and that I’ve got it all together.  But the truth here that we want to look at - talking about financial stewardship - is so important that all of us need to be reminded - regularly reminded - of what God has for us - His purposes behind 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)

Have you heard that?  Thank you for laughing.

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.  One of the top 5 reasons people give for not coming to a church is the impression - which is understandable - the impression that,
“The church isn’t interested in me.  The church is only interested in my money.”

Please hear this - o
ur 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.

If you would turn with me to
Deuteronomy 8:11-20 - or have your sermon notes in front of you - we’re going to read this passage out loud together.  The Hebrew nation is at the Jordan River - ready to enter the Promised Land - Moses is speaking.  He’s giving a sobering warning to the Hebrew nation - a warning that’s as relevant today - for us - as it was when Moses first gave it.

Deuteronomy 8 - s
tarting 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.  When God blesses you materially - remember what?  That it was God who blessed you.  And, when we remember God - God - rather than judging us - punishing us - when we remember God - God blesses us even more.  We experience an ongoing deepening relationship with Him.  That’ great!  Right?

Thinking through Moses’ warning and promise of God’s blessing - thinking through
how all this applies 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 we must give 10%.  There’s so more to tithing than the number ten.  People get stuck on the number ten and they miss the heart of what God is getting at.

The heart of tithing
is an act an act of obedience in our personal relationship with God.  Learning to listen to God - to open our hearts to Him - to remember who He is and all that He’s done for us.

Four p
rinciples of tithing.  First:  THE PRINCIPLE OF REGULARITY.  Say that with me, “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 - m
oney represents days and hours of sweat and tears.  There’s a reason we call work - work.  So, there’s a certain amount of pain in giving.  We’re giving a part of ourselves.

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” - its already settled.  Prayerfully - before God - we make one basic decision.  Then it’s simply a matter of carrying out that decision regularly and systematically.

- regularity.  Second:  THE PRINCIPLE OF PROPORTIONALITY.  Try that with me, “The principle of proportionality.”

One of the best examples of this that I’ve run across - and I’ve shared this before - a tremendous example of giving with proportionality is
John Wesley.  When John Wesley began his career as a teacher at Oxford University back in the 1700’s - he was paid 30 pounds per year.  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?

That’s a challenge for us. 
God blesses us not so we can spend more on ourselves - better cars - bigger houses - more toys.  Supersize is not always wise.  God blesses us materially because He wants to use those resources according to His will - for His glory - in His work of redeeming mankind from sin.

You all know what’s opening on the 19th?  Star Wars III.  They had the premiere in Modesto - $250 a ticket - and you get your picture taken with Chewbacca.  That’s my goal in life - get my picture taken with a walking carpet.

If we were selling tickets - like a theater - it costs an average of $39 per Sunday - per person sitting in one these comfy chairs - to keep the doors open.
 So, if you’re a member, your obligation per week - bottom line - is $39.  That’s all that’s required.  There are churches that look at ministry that way.  God doesn’t. 

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 - or what’s in the bank - 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.  Try that together, “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) (Obligatory laugh?)

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 for the first time.

Say these with me: 
Regularity - Proportionality - Priority - Fourth:  THE PRINCIPLE OF TRUST.  Try that, “The principle of trust.”

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, huh?

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 the
se 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 - isnt cheap.  Gas is outrageous.  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%?

In Deuteronomy 8 - this what Moses is reminding the people about.  All the way from Egypt - traveling through the wilderness - God’s people are doubting God - complaining and angry at God and Moses and Joshua.  What a bunch of whiners.  How many times did God have to answer the question,
“Are we there yet?” 

Moses reminds them - God brought you out of slavery in Egypt - led you through the wilderness with its serpents and scorpions and dry thirsty places.  In the wilderness He fed you manna.  40 years of God continually getting His people out trouble and taking care of their needs.

Remember the manna - the bread like stuff that God provided for His people?  Five mornings of the week - how much manna did God tell the people to collect?  Just enough for that day.  What happened if they tried to save some for the next day?  Worms - maggots - stench.  On the sixth day how much were the people suppose to collect?  Enough for that day and the next day - the Sabbath.  What happened when the obeyed God?  No worms - no stench. (Exodus 16) 

Why did God set it up that way?  What is God trying to get His people to understand?  Trust Me.

eeply 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 Hell 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.”

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 - were 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 - the house is paid off - 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.

Bottom line: 
It’s not the percentage God is after.  It’s our heart.  Try that together, “It’s not the percentage God is after.  It’s our heart.”

Even in Moses’ day.  Moses warns the people - Deuteronomy 8:17 - when you forget God, “
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.”

Financial stewardship - remembering God - turns our hearts towards God.

I read something a while back that I want to share with you again this morning 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. 
hen 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
Juan Carlos Ortiz, Call to Discipleship, Plainfield, NJ, Logos International, 1975 - quoted in Leadership IV