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Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 5, 2012

Please turn with me to Deuteronomy 8 - starting at verse 11.  This morning we’re going to talk about financial stewardship.

The unemployment rate in Merced County is 13.3%.  Well above the state average of 8.3%.  Unemployment-wise Merced County is #5 and working on becoming #4.  Our median family income is way below the state average.  There are only 4 counties in worse shape than ours. 

2008 was not a pleasant - feel good - year for the American economy.  Gas prices spiked - fell - and are inching up again.  The stock market fell at a rate we haven’t seen since The Great Depression. 

"And now for today’s financial news with Chuck and his slide whistle.”

Many people’s retirement and savings accounts are seemingly non-existent.

(cartoon) The boat’s name is “investments.” 
“You know, in this situation it’s hard to know whether to jump or stay on board.”   Have you felt like that?  Tons of people have.

Foreclosures have set records.  Houses around here have lost about 40% of their value.  North Merced looks like Bodie.  Consumer confidence is way down.  Families are struggling.  For sure we’re in a recession.

So, what better time could there be for us to talk about financial stewardship!

There’s a story that takes place in a small café up in Alaska - Palin country.  The owner of the cafe
/ 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.”

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.”

Our goal this morning is not to squeeze anyone.  To make people feel guilty or make a pitch for money. 

Based on God’s blessing of this congregation in 2008 - what we were able to give - paying our missions commitment and the funding of the ministry here - the paying down of the loan on this building - you all should feel good about what you allowed God to do through you.  Turn to the person next to you and tell them,
“Good job.”  Then tell them this, “Praise God.”

Financial stewardship - managing God given financial resources - is never intended by God to be a guilt thing.  Financial Stewardship - is integral to our relationship with God - is intended by God to help us grow closer to Him - to experience His blessings - to live in a deepening - dependent - relationship with Him.  And - in these difficult economic times - as we sort through economic realities - it is especially important for us to seek God’s wisdom - what God has for us - to think through how the source of all wealth - God - desires for us to steward His wealth - and why.

Coming to
Deuteronomy 8 - 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.  These verses - Deuteronomy 8:11-20 - are a part of that warning.

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.

Let’s pause there.  “To forget” is the Hebrew verb “sha-kach” - which has the idea of ignoring something to the point where we stop caring about it.  It no longer matters to us.  Something that was really really important to us gets put in the closet and after a while we forget we even have it.  Ever do that?   Years later find something you forgot you had? 
“I didn’t know I had that!”  “Sha-kach.”

When we’re eating at Hometown Buffet every night - living in a warm dry house - doing okay financially - enjoying some creature comforts - able to do pretty much what we want - looking out on what we’ve achieved in life - what God has blessed us with - all that can gradually distract us from remembering that life is about God.  We can begin to lose our intensity and fervor - our dedication - to our relationship with God and serving Him.  We slowly forget that all that blessing comes from God. 

Moses gives 3 examples of God being there for His people.  What it would be so easy for God’s people - given God’s blessing - their God given prosperity - what would be so easy to “sha-kach” - to forget.

Verse 14 - example #1: 
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. 

#1 God’s deliverance of His people
.  Moses and the plagues.  The sacrifice of the Passover Lamb - the killing of the first born.  Israel being set free from bondage in Egypt.

In Scripture that deliverance from bondage in Egypt is also symbolic of God delivering us from bondage to sin and death through the broken body and shed blood of Jesus.

Moses is telling God’s people - us - don’t forget that God has delivered you.

Example #2 - verse 15: 
He - God - 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,

#2 God’s provision for His people
.  God - taking His people through the wilderness - is more than just giving directions.  “Head east.”  It has to do with God’s protecting His people - making provision for their needs.  God - in the midst of the stuff of life - God teaching His people about what it means to have a relationship with Him.  To trust Him with their needs.

In the wilderness coming out of Egypt - God’s people complained - against Aaron and Moses - and ultimately against God.  They complained because the trip through the wilderness was taking so long.  So God sent fiery serpents that bit the people.  People died.  When they repented God healed them.  (Numbers 21:4-9)

God’s people whined about not having water.  So God instructs Moses to strike the rock at Massah and Meribah.  God provides water for His people.  (Exodus 17:1-7)

God’s people whine about not having enough food.  God sends manna to feed His people.  (Exodus 16:1-21)

Despite their complaining and whining God provides for His people - leads them safely through the wilderness.  And along the way they’re learning to seek God - to trust God - that God will take care of them.

God doesn’t just give us guidelines for how to live life. 
“Here’s the Bible.  Good luck.”  But along the way He’s teaching us how to do life in the only way that works - which is to seek God - to trust God with our lives.

Example #3  God’s Purpose for His people
.  Verse 16 - that - the purpose of what went on in the wilderness - so that - He - God - 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.’ 

“To be humbled” - in the Hebrew - has the idea of being punished - humiliated - afflicted - brought down low.  “To test” is the idea of being proven - being purified - at the core of who we are - so that there’s nothing left between us and God.

God purifying His people - preparing them - so that when they come to live in the Promised Land - a land flowing with milk and honey - in that prosperity - God’s people won’t forget that its God who’s the One blessing them.

In other words - God allows His people - us - to experience hardship - to go through tough times - to get our boats rocked - so that instead of getting up on our little pedestals of pride - in the good times forgetting all of what God has done for us - instead of forgetting - because through struggle we’ve learned to trust God - in the good times we’ll continue to trust Him with our lives.  Which really is - totally trusting God - really is the best way to go through life.

Moses gives three examples to remind us that God has been there for His people - for us.  Totally blessed us by delivering us from bondage to sin - by providing for us - by teaching us to live trusting Him.

Point Being:  
Whatever we have - whatever really counts for anything in life - whatever’s worth having in life - we have because of God.  Try this with me, “Its all because of God.”

Verse 18: 
But you shall remember the Lord your God,

“Remember” is the Hebrew word “zaw-kar.”  It has the idea of building a memorial.  We build memorials - monuments - to commemorate significant events.  Same idea.  Build a memorial in front of your refrigerator that you have to climb over in order to get to the refrigerator in order to remind you that God provides food for you. 

“To remember” is to purposefully - doggedly - do whatever it takes - to be committed to think about the Lord our God - and to keep thinking about the Lord our God - and all that He - the Lord our God - has done for each one of us.

Going on in verse 18: 
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.”

Which certainly happened to Israel.  They forgot.  They didn’t remember.  And God purposefully judged His people.  Sent them off into exile.  A huge warning for us.

The bottom line of what Moses
says is this:  When God blesses you remember that it was God who blessed you.  When God blesses you - remember what?  Remember that it was God who blessed you.

Thinking through Moses’ warning and the promise of God’s blessing - thinking through
how all this applies to our lives today - coming back to financial stewardship - managing the financial resources that God blesses us with - when God - who blesses us with a relationship with Him - who blesses us with the power to make wealth - how can we purposefully remember God with our finances?  To stay focused on God and not ourselves and the stuff He blesses us with.

Please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 16:2.  The Apostle Paul - writing to the church in Corinth - and also giving instructions to the churches in Galatia, Macedonia, Asia - about the needs of the Jerusalem Church which was greatly impoverished - the need for these other churches to take up a collection for the Jerusalem church.  Paul writing to these churches summarizes principles of financial stewardship that God has embedded in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

Each principle - if we’ll take these to heart and put them into practice in our lives - each principle will help us to build a memorial out of our finances that will keep us remembering God.

1 Corinthians 16 - verse 2: 
On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.

There are three principles of financial stewardship that Paul touches on here.  The first is
The Principle of Regularity.  Let’s say that together.  “The principle of regularity.”

In verse 2 Paul writes: 
“On the first day of every week.”  

The Jewish day of worship began when? on Friday evening and went until Saturday evening - the seventh day.  What Paul writes here is one of the first indications we have that the early Christians had begun to regularly come together on Sunday - the first day of the week - for worship and prayer.

If you back up one chapter to 1 Corinthians 15 - what Paul writes there - in that chapter - is one of the most powerful passages dealing with Jesus’ resurrection.  Which connects beautifully with why we worship on Sunday - and Paul’s comments here in chapter 16.

The first day is the day Jesus rose from death.  Its the beginning of life on a totally different level.  Every Sunday we celebrate that resurrection and that life - freedom from bondage to sin and death.  Paul writes, with that reality in mind - that life in Jesus - give.  Every first day of every week - week in and week out - give.  That’s regularity.

Some of us get paid bi-weekly or monthly - giving each Sunday isn’t a practical reality.  Let’s not get lost in that.  Grab the principle - regularity.

A man called the church and asked if he could speak to the Head Hog at the Trough.  The secretary said, “Who?”

The man replied,
“I want to speak to the Head Hog at the Trough!”

Sure now that she had heard correctly, the secretary said,
“Sir, if you mean our pastor, you’ll have to treat him with more respect and ask for, ‘The Reverend’ or ‘The Pastor.’  But certainly you cannot refer to him as the Head Hog at the Trough!”

At this, the man came back,
“Oh, I see.  Well, I have ten thousand dollars I was thinking of donating to the Building Fund.”

The secretary said: 
“Hold the line.  I think the Big Pig just walked in the door.”  Have you heard that?  Thank you for laughing.

Too often we’re impressed with large donations.  That’s a major reason we don’t publicize who gives what around here.  I have no idea what people give.  And that’s a good thing.  Too often we get entangled in our own egos when we make donations.  All the things that we’re able to do with our money - what we’re able to support - what we’re able to give.  Regularity restrains that possibility.

When we
give only because of a special appeal or make some large donation - neglecting regular giving we can deceive ourselves into thinking that we’re being really generous.  $520 sounds impressive as a one time gift.  But, $520 divided by 52 Sundays - $10 doesn’t really sound all that impressive.

But $10 - given regularly - week in and week out - is less about our egos - and more about being committed to daily living out our relationship with Jesus.  
Regular giving reminds us that life is about God - the God who saves us - who gives to us life with Him now and forever.  Life is not about us.

First principle - Regularity.  Second -
The Principle of Priority.  Let’s say that together, “The principle of priority.”

(cartoon) “Crisis in Darfur - Soldiers and civilians in harms way in Iraq - fictional character Harry Potter may be killed off in next book…  NOOOO - violence in the Middle East.”

"Dang if they didn’t put the high school football on the religion page…”  “’Bout time…”


Paul writes,
“Each one of you is to put aside and save” - so that when I come you won’t have to take an offering.  What you’ve already prepared to give will be taken to Jerusalem.  That means that God’s part is set aside first - set aside before the rest of our wealth gets spent.  God’s part gets saved up for the collection coming on Sunday.

It may seem
intelligent to take care of all our necessities - especially when we're living right on the line financially - seems intelligent to take care of our necessities and then to look around to see if something is left over for God.  But honestly - it’s amazing how many necessities we have that can eat up our resources.  Isn’t it?  While we’re piling up debt and financial obligations - its amazing how easy God’s portion gets squeezed.

Something I’ve found from my own life.  When God comes second its amazing how the necessities never seem to really get taken care of.  And this - the reverse is also true.  When we give to God first its amazing how all the real necessities get taken care of.  Amen?

Priority is
setting aside God’s share first - off the top - the gross - the net - whatever - not the bottom.  All that spiritual talk about “God first, others are second, and I’m third” becomes concrete and actual.

Giving God financial priority
reorganizes our life - which is what financial stewardship should do.  Priority giving reminds us that God provides for His people.

Regularity.  Priority.  Third - 
The Principle of Proportion.  Let’s say that together, “The principle of proportion.”

Paul writes,
“as he may prosper.”

The best example of this that I’ve ever run across - what sticks in my mind and makes me think about how I’m giving - the best example of run across is John Wesley.  Remember this?

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 away how much?  2 pounds.

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.  That went on year after year.   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
Christian’s what?  standard of giving.  That’s a challenge for us.

Five Venti Carmel Frappuccinos a week comes out to $1,118 per year.  I realize I’m on thin ice and Starbucks is an easy target.  But, grab the idea here.  Balance even a portion of that amount with how many people might come to salvation if that money was invested in reaching people with the Gospel.  For example - with Gospel for Asia $1,000 will support a missionary for 1 year. 

In the Old Testament God’s people were instructed to give the first tenth of the produce - crops - lambs - goats - whatever.  Bring the first 10% plus - it was actually much more than 10% - bring the first fruits to the Temple - New Testament equivalent - the church.

Point being that every time they did that it was a reminder that God was the master over everything they had.  The very land they were on - the  Promised Land - was theirs because God promised it to them.  They’re stewards of God’s stuff.  Not owners.  Its not up to them to decide what to do with God’s stuff.  Its up to them to trust God and give according to God’s purposes for all that stuff. 

People argue back and forth about whether the tithe - 10% - is binding on the church in the New Testament.  But they're missing the point.  The bottom line of tithing is that God is after our hearts.  Who’s in control of our lives?  Who sets the priorities?  Who do we trust to take care of us?  Is our heart in tune with the heart of God?

In that sense - for some people to give 5% would be a huge test of faith - a huge commitment of the heart to God.  For others they could give 50% of their income and still not be tithing. 

Proportional giving - tithing -
encourages us to examine our real needs - to consider our income - our resources - our blessings - in order to determine - prayerfully - in obedience to God - what share God would have us give.  The bottom line question isn’t, “How much do I have to give?” but, How much can I give for God’s work?”

Proportion giving forces us to humbly focus on God’s purpose for blessing us.

In Deuteronomy 8 - Moses reminds God’s people - 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 - preparing them to take possession of His Promised Land.

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.”

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,
with priority, in proportion - deepens our dependence on God - our trust in God - helps us to remember that - regardless of the economic insanity around us - He - God -
is still sovereign over the provision for our daily lives and over our relationship with Him.




Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.