Don’t Give Out Of Extortion!

-Give It As A Gift!

When I was a Bible College student, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need to give a “tithe” or an “offering”, in church, because I was paying my tuition to a “Christian” college! So, I thought, that was like just as good as giving it to my church! Apparently NOT! I remember needing some repair work done on my car—and, it was a sizeable amount! I remember sensing a Holy Spirit “inspired” thought like God telling me, “I WILL get your offering even if I have to TAKE it through an auto repair!

-Taken By Coercion!

In Paul’s letter to the Church of Corinth, he made an interesting statement, “Therefore I considered it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance the generous gift you promised, so that it will be ready as a gift and not as an extortion” 2 Corinthians 9:5.  That’s an interesting choice of words! Paul’s like saying, “Don’t MAKE me TAKE that from you”; or, “Don’t MAKE me EXTORT it…or, take it by COERCION.” Literally, he’s saying, “Don’t make me STEAL it from you.” That’s NOT how you give an offering to the Lord! That’s NOT how you give to the work of the Gospel! That’s NOT how you give to needy people! “Don’t give,” Paul says, “ONLY because your FORCED to give.” God won’t bless your gift if He has to EXTORT it from you!

-Sow Generously! Reap Generously!

In the next verse, Paul continues, “Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously” 2 Corinthians 9:6.  Don’t give “sparingly.” So, what exactly does that word mean? We don’t use the word “sparingly” very often. We’re more familiar with the word “spare.” If someone begs you to spare their life, they mean, “Let me keep it! Don’t take it from me!” If a coach tells his team, “Spare no effort” he means, “Don’t hold back any of your effort! Give ALL your effort!” In Romans 8:32 it says, “God did not even SPARE His own Son, but offered Him up for us all.” That means that God didn’t hold Him back! He didn’t keep Jesus for himself! He SHARED Him with us! So, if we give “sparingly” it means, in our heart, that we want to HOLD BACK! We don’t want to SHARE!

-How “Not” To Give!

When we give “sparingly”, we’re not thinking about how much we can GIVE; but, about how much we can KEEP & HOLD onto! In the next verse, Paul tells the Corinthian believers not to give “reluctantly”—“Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver” 2 Corinthians 9:7. Some translations use the word “GRUDGINGLY”—don’t give your offering with a “grudge.” Don’t hold it against God like He’s asking too much from us! If we’re not careful, it’s easy to harbor a bitter spirit against God about His giving requirements! However, that’s acting like an “OWNER”—which we are NOT! We’re a “steward” or a “manager” of a portion of God’s estate! It’s all His! Nothing belongs to us—”You brought nothing into this world & you can’t take anything out” 1 Tim 6:7.

 

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Your Giving Reveals Your Heart!

-It’s An Exact Index!

Richard Halverson served as the Chaplain of the United States Senate from 1981-1994. Some considered this statement he made, about money, to be controversial: “Jesus Christ said more about money than any other single thing because, when it comes to a man’s real nature, money is of first importance. Money is an exact index to a man’s true character.  All through Scripture there is an intimate correlation between the development of a man’s character and how he handles his money.” Money is an “exact index” to a man’s true character, he says! In other words, you can get a good feel for a person’s level of spiritual commitment by checking out their spending habits!

-Where Is Your Treasure?

Jesus said it like this, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will follow” Matthew 6:21. What your money goes after is a pretty clear indication of what your heart goes after! What your hands buy is a reflection of what your heart is doing with God! I saw this 1st hand because I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I was 13 when my parents came to faith in Christ; and, I saw how it impacted all their decisions about finances. So, the “quality” of your faith will reflect in all your financial decisions, as well as the level of your generosity. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”; and, He had a lot to say about money! Nearly half of his parables were about finances—He talked about money & possessions more than all His talks on heaven & hell combined! REALLY!

-Is Money Spiritual?

All of which means that it’s impossible to separate your financial life from your spiritual life. We can’t make money a taboo subject in the Church & the pulpit when 1 out of every 7 verses, in the New Testament, deals with money. Think about this: There are 500 Bible verses on prayer; LESS than 500 verses on faith; and, more than 2,350 verses on money! If the Church is to be faithful to the Word of God, we can’t NOT preach and teach about money! There is a fundamental connection between your spiritual life, and, the way you think about & handle money! Your financial decisions ultimately reveal what you think about God!

-We’re Managing God’s Stuff!

And, it’s vital to your walk with Christ—to your SANCTIFICATION & your spiritual growth—that you listen and obey what the Scriptures say about this. You’ve got to get this right, Church! Let the Holy Spirit, who indwells you as a believer, convict you with God’s Word if you’re not doing this right! And, REPENT! Make the right decision for God! As we conclude, let the words of the Apostle Paul to the Church of Corinth speak to your heart: “Remember this, the person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver…You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us.” 2 Corinthians 9:1-12

 

What Do You Love More Than God?

-Are There Competing Loves?

When Jesus told the rich young ruler to, “Go, sell your belongings and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…” he confronted him with the one thing in his life that was competing for a relationship with God—his wealth! The text continues, “…but, when the young man heard that command, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions” Mark 10:17-27.  Let’s be clear—Jesus didn’t tell everyone to sell all their possessions and give it to the poor. Only to those, who made their possessions an idol, does He tell to get rid of it!

-Do You Want To Be Rich?

And, it’s not just about HAVING riches! The Apostle Paul says, “…those who WANT to BE RICH fall into temptations, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction” 1 Timothy 6:9.  It’s not having riches, necessarily, that are the temptation and trap. It’s the WANTING to BE RICH! I’ve known people who were dirt poor and fell into this trap! It was the “lust” they had to BE RICH that ruled their life! It was the idol they bowed down to—WANTING to BE RICH! Those who love money, whether they have it or not, are easily deceived by it!

-The Root Of All Kinds Of Evil!

Paul continued his warning to Timothy, “…the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” 1 Timothy 6:10. In other words, it’s that covetous love for money that can give rise to all kinds of other deadly sins. When the “love of money” is your life’s ambition, you’ll sell out everything to get it—even your relationship with God! You’ll do whatever it takes to gain more money; and, to gain more stuff! But, you’ll never be content!

-Godliness With Contentment!

Paul told Timothy that it was “…godliness with contentment that is great gain”; and, “…if we have food and clothing we should be content with these” 1 Timothy 6:6,8.  Our greatest “return on investment” comes from a life that finds contentment in God alone! If we have God! If we know Him! If He is our treasure, than food and clothing is all we really need in this life! Paul tells Timothy that it’s possible to be content with those simple necessities of life because we have all that we really need in God! Do you believe that? Do you live that way? Are you content?

-Free From The Love For Money!

God inspired the writer of Hebrews to record these words: “Keep your life free from the love of money. Be content with what you have. For He has said, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you.’ Hence we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5,6.  We can be FREE from the love of money! We can be content with what we have because God will never forsake us! He’ll never fail me! The stock market will fail me; but, God never will! So, how do you spend your money? Jesus said, “…where your heart is, there your treasure will be…” If you treasure stuff, that’s where your heart will follow! If you treasure God’s work, that’s where your heart will follow!

 

Do I Really Own My Stuff?

-Or, Am I A Manager?

You don’t want to be on the wrong side of that question! If you don’t listen to the Word of God—when it comes to your finances & your stuff—you’ll forfeit something. God will oppose you as long as you live like an “owner” of YOUR stuff rather than a “steward” or a “manager” of HIS. The prophet, Malachi, was inspired by God’s Spirit to write: “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed ME! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse” Malachi 3:8,9.

-God Owns It All!

Clearly, God means for us to understand that our resources are not ours to use however we may wish! In my last post I challenged you with Scripture that makes it clear that God owns ALL of it! He doesn’t just get our tithe & offerings; and, the rest is ours to spend on ourselves! He owns it ALL—Deuteronomy 10:14; Haggai 2:8; 1 Corinthians 10:26. As stewards, we are responsible for managing the portion of HIS “estate”—that He has entrusted to us—the way that HE wants it to be managed! We don’t really have the freedom to do what we want with it! Our responsibility is to spend it the way He directs us! We have to get this right, Church! You’re the STEWARD of your stuff, not the OWNER! Repeat that our loud! You need to convince yourself of that!

-Do A Financial Audit!

Here’s what you need to do—you need to do an AUDIT of your finances! And, if God’s Spirit shows you that you’ve been living like an owner instead of a steward, you need to “repent.” Literally, to “repent” means to “change your mind” about something. If you’ve not been obedient, in this area, you need to repent & change your mind about the way you’ve been living! And, I would challenge you to make it a matter of prayer, every day, to release your stuff back to God! Talk to Him every day, about it, and, give it all back to Him. And, how will you know if you’re making progress? Well, you’ll begin to experience freedom from greed, first of all! When it’s part of your mindset that none of your stuff is really yours, you’ll also begin to experience a freedom from the anxiety that a love of money can bring. It’s all Gods anyway; and, He’s promised to take care of you! So, your dependence transfers from your IRA to God, right?

-Don’t Wander From The Faith!

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy, his son in the faith, with these words: “But godliness with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” 1 Timothy 6:6-10. Catch the gravity of Paul’s warning to young Timothy? He tells him that the way he looks at his money & his stuff has a direct correlation to his relationship with God! And, if he gets it wrong he’s in danger of “financial apostasy”; or, wandering from the faith! Don’t do that!

 

Why Am I So Discontent?

-Hoping To Strike It Rich!

One of the most embarrassing financial decisions I ever made was getting into the beef jerky vending machine business! It was like the late ‘90’s, as I recall; and, I spent $10,000 for 20 machines. I trusted the company to place them in high traffic areas; but, it didn’t work out that way! My kids benefited—the boys, especially, enjoyed lots of beef jerky snacks! Then, there were all the “Publisher’s Clearing House” and “Reader’s Digest” sweepstakes entries I filled out religiously in hopes of striking it rich! But, perhaps my most embarrassing financial “scheme” was one of those “Chain Letters” where you write 1000 strangers, asking them to send you $10; and, then they send 1000 letters. And, if no one breaks the chain everyone will have like a million dollars in 30 days—it didn’t work! I lost a lot of money on postage! Yea, I did that! Only once! I was a dirt poor college student, and, I was easily manipulated! Don’t judge me!

-Greed Masqueraded!

Now, let me tell you why I’m willing to embarrass myself with those true stories! I wanted to illustrate how greed & covetousness can masquerade themselves! I’m NOT saying that buying into the beef jerky vending business; or, any kind of vending business is greedy! I’m NOT saying that filling out the “Publisher’s Clearing House” entries is greedy and covetous! But, FOR ME, it was! All those activities, FOR ME, were a hoped for “get rich scheme.” I was greedy and covetous! I saw someone wearing a t-shirt once that read, “All I Want Is A Little Bit More Than I’ll Ever Have.” That was ME! I had bought into that worldly attitude that to be happy, I needed more STUFF!

-Advertisers Appeal To Our Greed!

That’s the assumption behind most advertising, isn’t it— “You can’t be totally happy ‘til you own our product. If you wanna enjoy life, you need this & you can buy now, pay later, on our easy credit plan!” It’s my hope, over the next few posts, to search the Scriptures with you and seek the Holy Spirit’s help to determine what we ought to value in life! There’s no denying that God has a lot to say about money and wealth and stuff; and, generally speaking, this is what He says: “Everything belongs to ME!” It all belongs to HIM! None of our stuff is truly ours! How much do we leave behind at death? ALL of it!

-God Owns It All!

Consider these Scripture verses—”To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it” Deut 10:14. “The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the LORD Almighty” Haggai 2:8. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” 1 Cor. 10:26. We are NOT owners! We are “stewards” and “managers” of God’s stuff! Let me tell you why that’s so important—If you think YOU own your stuff, you’ll use your income to build your “Little Kingdom”; when, it’s God’s will that you leverage it to build His “BIG Kingdom.” You’ll be guilty of robbing from God. That was one of Israel’s sins: “Will a man rob God?” He ASKS, “Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse” Malachi 3:8,9. It’s a serious crime to “rob” God—they were cursed!

 

Abraham’s Faith Crisis!

-Caution: God At Work!

If you follow Jesus by faith & trust Him for your eternal salvation, than “sanctification” is the work God is presently doing in your life. We all want to be “SANCTIFIED”; but, rarely do we enjoy the process God uses to get us there. On a number of levels, Abraham presents us with a picture of a sanctified life. In Genesis ch. 11, v.30 it reads:  “…Sarah was unable to conceive; she did not have a child...” So, Abraham loved a woman that could not conceive a child! That presented Abraham with a crisis of faith because God had promised to make of Abraham a great nation, through his offspring, with Sarah!

-God Uses Life’s Hardships!

After reading the entire account, we come away with this—God uses the hardships in our life to sanctify us! This crisis of faith would provide God the perfect opportunity to stretch Abraham’s faith & trust in Him; and, it’s in the stretching, of our faith, that we grow! Jesus taught His disciples:  “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” John 16:33. Jesus already overcame all the suffering that this world had to dish out! And, He conquered it! Notice, “…you will have suffering in this world,” Jesus said, “in part, so we find peace in Him!”

-Let Go Of Your Stuff!

God uses pain, trouble & suffering to loosen our grip on the stuff in this world! That’s part of our sanctification—part of the spiritual growth process! We only grab hold of our future “GLORIFICATION” as we let go of this life! Let go of your dreams & aspirations! Let go of your attempts to control your circumstances & your environment! And, give it all over to Jesus! That’s NOT what the world tells you! The world tells you to live out your dreams! To do whatever you want! To go after it with gusto & determination! Jesus says, “If you hold onto your life you’ll lose it! But, if you lose your life for my sake & the Gospel you will find it” Matthew 10:39.  We grow, in our sanctification, as we desire to live out God’s “dreams” & “plans” for our life; and, relinquish our own! The sanctified life grabs hold of Paul’s words:  “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28.  He doesn’t promise to make all things good! He promises to work them together for our good—for our sanctification!

-Trusting A God Who’s Not In A Hurry!

Abraham is a picture of the sanctified life because he trusted a God who does not hurry! God wasn’t in a hurry to fulfill His promise to Abraham about moving to Canaan land. He wasn’t in a hurry to follow through on His promise of a son, to Abraham, through Sarah. Abraham waited 25 years for Isaac—the son of promise! In His perfect time, God came through! Because God is never in a hurry, we can become impatient with Him & try to provide our own fulfillment to His promises. Abraham tried to make Ishmael acceptable to God—the product of his liaison with Sarah’s handmaid; but, God refused him. Abraham would learn to trust in a God who was never in a hurry! Ask God to make you willing to wait on Him!

 

Abraham Believed God!

-In The Midst Of A Faith Crisis!

When God makes an entrance into Abraham’s life, He calls him to leave his home & go to a new land where He promised to make him into a great nation. That presented a problem, because, Sarah—his wife—had been unable to conceive (see Genesis 12). The rest of Abraham’s “story” is just one crisis of belief after another—but, this is what God uses to grow him spiritually! Abraham presents us with a Biblical picture of a sanctified life; and, how God achieves it. This is how God works in the life of everyone who comes to Him by faith!

-Justified By Faith!

The scripture tells us that Abraham was “justified” by his faith.  “Abraham believed God,” His story, in Genesis, says, “and, God CREDITED it to him as RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Genesis 15:6).  And, the rest of his life presents a study, in SANCTIFICATION, as he is progressively set free from the power of sin. Isn’t that the hardest part of the Christian life? Growing in our “sanctification”? I mean JUSTIFICATION is really quite painless. It’s just applying the truth of the Gospel and accepting God’s pardon for sin, right? And, GLORIFICATION? I mean, yea, you have to DIE to get it! But, the actual process of BEING GLORIFIED, like Jesus, sounds awesome! But, SANCTIFICATION? That can be quite painful as God turns up the heat, on our lives, in order to bring our sins to the surface where they can be dealt with by His Spirit!

-A Picture Of A Sanctified Life!

So, let’s talk about how Abraham is a picture of the sanctified life.  Genesis ch. 12 begins with these words: “The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” But, Abraham never saw that promise, of God, fulfilled in his lifetime! The writer of Hebrews says: “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise” (Heb.11:8,9). That phrase, “…he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise…” reminds us that this world is not ours to claim! We’re “aliens” here (1 Peter 2:11).

-Where Do You Claim Citizenship?

The Apostle Paul wrote the Church of Philippi—“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).  Like Abraham, we need to confess that we’re “…foreigners and temporary residents on earth” (Heb. 11:13). We can’t hold onto this life too tightly if we hope to grow spiritually! Jesus told us to let go of this life; and, to die to self every day as we wait for the promise of our GLORIFICATION—to be completed in the “Land of Promise.”  It’s interesting that Abraham purchased some of the land—God promised him—for his burial (Gen. 25). It was his act of faith that he believed God would come through on His promise! Let us follow his great example!