“Just What Is It That We Tithe To?”

2 Corinthians 8:8-15

Dr. Robert J. Anderson

October 12, 2014

 

The setting for the passage in Corinthians I just read is that Paul is winding up a collection for the beleaguered church in Jerusalem.  There was part of the church of Jesus Christ that is very poor and brothers and sisters are in want.  The Corinthians were the first to want to help out and to take up a collection.  Now, the time is near when the collection must actually be delivered to the people in need.  Paul reminds them that, though Jesus was rich, he became poor for us so that we might become rich.  Now, he wants the people of the Corinthian church to make good on what they started--finish strong!  He encourages the Corinthians to give proportionally.  One should give according to what one has; not out of what one doesn’t have.  That is to say, God doesn’t expect us to give out of resources we don’t have.  Instead, we are to give out of the blessings God has given us.

 

Our Mission Team is reading some books and attended a conference along with other Presbyterians in our county.  And, they’ve learned some things.  There are three top reasons people give their money to whatever organization.

 

#1 They believe in the mission.  They want what the gift to make a difference.  Money donated to cancer research finds a cure.  Money given to a camp to enable children who can’t afford a camp experience to have one.  Money given to flood relief helps people rebuild their lives.  Money given to a church to transform lives actually does!

 

Let’s face it; you get a lot of appeals for money like Diane and me.  We have only so much money, like you.  So, we want to give it where it will do the most good--just like you.  I don’t know anyone who simply gives money just because.  Do you?  We give to those organizations whose mission we believe in.

 

#2 They have regard for the staff and the leadership.  Okay, you believe in the mission of the group you want to support, but what about the leadership and the staff?  The office of the group you want to support isn’t changing lives, nor is their program.  Lives are changed by the leadership and staff using the programs.  So, is the staff good, reliable and honest?

 

#3 Is the institution you want to support fiscally stable and responsible?  Is the money handled honestly?  Is the money being used to make a difference?  How much of what you give will be gobbled up by overhead?

 

These are the three things that top the list of reasons as to why people give to this group or that group.  In light of these three reasons, I want to share some things from my perspective.

 

I am firmly convinced that Jesus Christ changes people’s lives.  I have seen addicted people turn their life around.  I’ve witnessed relationships broken repaired.  I have seen people that had no purpose find their life has new meaning.  I’ve seen people that felt they had no self-worth find that they are precious in God’s eyes.  I’ve seen people in this congregation facing the ravages of cancer find strength in their faith and resolution in their fight from the members and friends here at United.   I’ve seen people come to the end of their lives and look death in the face and say they are, armed with their faith in Jesus Christ, ready and make the decision to pull the plug!  I have heard you tell me that the love you feel in this congregation is almost impossible to put into words, but it’s real and powerful.  I am convinced that Jesus Christ changes lives, and that is why Diane and I give without reservation to the ministry of Jesus Christ!

 

I know and have the highest regard for our staff and lay leadership.  We are so blessed with Richard and his music ministry.  He is genuine and sincere and his joy is palpable.  Tom Todd, our sexton, keeps things organized and clean and neat and ready for the ministry we do here.  Diana leads the bells and shares her talent with us joyfully.  Linda, our secretary, goes above and beyond – greeting people warmly on the phone and in the office, picking up prescriptions, watering house flowers, available for alarm company calls and so much more.  The staff here is dedicated, committed, and serves better than well.

 

When it comes to finances, your Elders and members of the Finance committee are super vigilant to make sure the money you entrust to this congregation is spent wisely and invested soundly.  Our books are open anytime for your review.  The Finance Committee pours over the monthly report to see that our spending isn’t out of line with our budget.  The Finance Committee invests prudently and stretches our reserves seven years.

 

God calls us to worship him with our time, talents, and financial resources.  Money and its use is the topic of much of the New Testament.

 

Over my years as a pastor, I’ve talked about tithing, a worship offering, percentage giving.  But, the word that comes to my mind when thinking of each of these—that covers each of these—it is “significant.”

 

When I was still in high school and attending a youth group, Bruce included in his prayer after taking the collection something about our giving should hurt a bit.  Years later, I would equate Bruce’s comment about hurting with significance.

 

Whatever you pledge for 2015 and put in the offering plate now should be significant.  And, significant will be different for each person.  It should be significant because we are honoring God!  A significant offering, today talking about our financial offerings (but equally applying to our offering of time and talents), is one filled with gratitude for all the blessings God pours out on us.

 

How does one interpret the word significant?  What is a significant?  Simply put, I think a significant offering is one that we will miss later.  If what I give to God is an amount that I don’t miss, then it isn’t a significant offering for me.  If I put $5.00 in the offering and think nothing of it—don’t miss it; then the $5.00 was an insignificant offering!  If, however, I put $5.00 in the offering plate, and I miss it; then that is significant!  What is significant will be different for each person.

The level at which we get pinched will be different for each one.  A significant offering will impact your life like nothing else you do.  Your life will be forever changed and your spiritual life will deepen, broaden, and strengthen.

 

We have a wonderful choir and they add so much to our worship of God.  Each Wednesday evening for an hour, maybe a little longer, they rehearse.  They gather about a half hour before our worship service on Sunday mornings to rehearse one more time.  This schedule is expanded during cantata times.  It is an important commitment of time on their part.  But, Monday or Tuesday or Friday or Saturday most likely they don’t think as they do other things about the time they spent at choir practice.  It is one part—a very important part—of their lives.

 

Now look at what happens when you offer a significant part or your financial resources to God and God’s work in the world.  It impacts everything.

 

Diane and I tithe.  We tithe what I receive from the church and what she receives from nursing.  10% is a significant amount.  God has blessed us, and we want to honor him with a significant offering, a worship offering.  Now, this significant offering is there right beside us every hour of every day!  At the grocery store, we have to think about whether we can afford this or that.  And, the reason for having to think about it is because we gave a significant offering to God; and it reminds us to whom we belong and who we worship!  Can we go out to eat?  It is a question because we are now stewards of the money remaining after we have given our offering.  And, the reason for having to think about it is because we gave a significant offering to God; and it reminds us to whom we belong and who we worship!  When there isn’t as much money as we would like left in our checking account at the end of the month, we are reminded that it is because we gave a significant offering to God, and we are reminded of whom we belong to and who we worship.  In other words, when you honor God with a significant offering, you are reminded of it throughout the week and month.  Every time you think about the money you spend, and it being less than you would like to have, it reminds you that you belong to God and you worship God with your time, talent, and financial resources.

 

A significant offering reminds you again and again and again, in a way quite different from anything else you do or I do, that you belong to God and you worship and serve him.  Living on less money than if I’d kept it all to myself or given an insignificant amount, constantly reminds me of my faith, my trust, and hope in God!  The foundation of my trust and hope shifts from me to God where it belongs!

 

We give God a significant offering because….  We believe in the God-given church’s mission to transform lives here in this congregation and community and throughout the world.  We have faith in the leaders and Elders in this congregation.  We know their commitment and their integrity.  We know that those who are handling our funds are doing it wisely and well.

 

Just what is it that we tithe to?  What is it that we give a worship offering to?  What is it that we give a significant portion of our income to?

 

Let me tell you what it is not!  You are not tithing or giving a significant offering to United.  You are not tithing or giving a significant offering to the budget.

 

You and I are tithing or giving a significant offering to God.  That’s why the underlying question when placing our offering in the offering plate is “Is God worshiped by what I give?”  “Is this honoring him as he should be honored?”  Is what I am putting in the offering plate a significant amount that honors God or is it something I won’t even miss?

 

This week you will receive in the mail pledge cards for you to indicate your support of God’s ministry here at United and through United to other parts of God’s creation.  When it comes, pray about what is a significant offering for you, an offering that will honor the God that sent his son Jesus through which your are saved.  Think about what a significant amount is for you and what the level you would have to give in order to miss it and make a difference in your life style.

 

What is it that you and I are giving to?  It is not to the church or to the budget.  Otherwise, the question would be what is my share of the church’s budget?  Instead, we are giving to God and God’s ministry in the world.  And, the question is “What is God’s share of my income/financial resources?”