Let me start off today by telling you a story.
Dan Clark shares a story about a friend of his named Paul who received an automobile from his brother as a Christmas present. When Paul came out of his office on Christmas Eve, one of the poorer children from the block was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it. He asked, "Is this your car, Mister?"
Paul nodded. He said, "My brother gave it to me for Christmas." The boy was astounded. "You mean your brother gave it to you, and it didn't cost you nothing? Boy, I wish..." and then he hesitated. Of course, Paul knew what he was going to wish for. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the little boy said jarred Paul all the way down to his heels.
He said, "I wish that I could be a brother like that."
Paul looked at the boy in astonishment, then impulsively, he added, "Would you like to take a ride in my automobile?" The little boy shook his head, and after a short ride, the boy turned and said, "Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?"
Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the kid wanted. He wanted to show his neighbors that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Paul was wrong again. "Will you stop where those two steps are?" the boy asked.
He ran up the steps. Then in a little while, Paul heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little disabled brother. He sat him down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed up against him and pointed to the car.
"There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas, and it didn't cost him a cent. And someday, I'm gonna give you one just like it. Then you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I've been trying to tell you about."
Paul got out and lifted the little disabled boy into the front seat of his car. The shining-eyed older brother climbed in beside him, and the three of them began a memorable holiday ride. That Christmas Eve, Paul learned what Jesus meant when he had said: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
I want a heart like that little boy had for his brother. I want a heart like that for God.
Today, I want to tell you why I give my tithes (giving 10% to God) and offerings to God and to the ministries of this church. I want to tell you why it is my joy to fund the kingdom of God. Before I give you a few reasons why I give, I have to be honest with you. There was a day I wasn't a generous person at all.
I didn't give any tithes or offerings to the churches I served in while I was on a church staff for many years. I didn't give a dime to the church, and I justified what I was doing. I told myself that I put in extra hours of work that I was never paid for, so I thought it would count as giving. Honestly, it was just a lame excuse for being cheap.
As I have gotten older and more mature in my faith, giving has changed from a "have to" to a "get to." Let me tell you why. The first reason is pretty selfish, but…
1. I give because I like the way it makes me feel.
Jesus was right when he said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20:35
When I heard that verse as a child, I remember thinking that was the dumbest thing I had ever heard. Better to give than to get. I don't think so. From a child's perspective, it is always better to be the one who is opening the gift rather than watching someone else open a gift. That's the reason we couldn't sleep on Christmas Eve as kids. We couldn't wait to see what was under all that wrapping paper.
But again, as I have gotten older, my focus has changed. Now I can't sleep on Christmas Eve, not because of some present under the tree for me, but because I can't wait to see my kids' faces as they open a gift that my wife and I got for them.
That is the same way I feel when I give to God. I don't like the feeling of being a taker. I want to give and put a smile on God's face.
2. I give because I love this church, and I know you do too.
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
I'm grateful to be a part of a church where we leverage every penny to seeing that statement become a reality. Let me explain to you where the money goes.
39% of the pie chart goes to debt reduction and future expansion. When you think of how the buildings are used each week, you know money spent on them is well spent.
Obviously, on Saturdays and Sundays, we offer ministries to all ages, and we also do this almost every day of the week with small groups and recovery groups. Funerals and weddings are performed here as well. Our buildings are also the epicenter of how we resource all of our campuses with materials and programs all over the world.
37% of the pie goes towards staff salaries. Not that seems like a high percentage, but you have to remember we have eight campuses. And think about what the staff does.
14% is for ministry programs: kids camp, Student camp, our weekly ministries.
10% of the pie goes to missions, and we have mission initiatives that we support all over the world. We have mission initiatives in the United States, in Mexico, in Belize, in Ethiopia, in Haiti, in Nicaragua, in France. We are building churches, building a school, providing fresh water to villages, feeding the poor, and sharing the message of Jesus all over the world.
This is an aggressive church. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18,
"I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
Gates are used to defend territory. I have never seen a gate used as an offense. The church is to attack the gates of hell. We are to gain ground. Satan has had our family and our friends for far too long. This is a church that advances the kingdom of God. This church sacrifices whatever it takes to see one more person who was far from God come to Him. We all know it takes money to advance the cause of Christ, and in this place, we are willing to give so that Satan loses, and the kingdom of God advances.
3. I give because I love my Savior.
2 Corinthians 9:7 says, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
How would you like it if on your birthday a friend of yours came over and tossed a gift at you and said, "I knew it was your birthday, and I didn't want to spend this much, but I knew you would get mad at me if I didn't, so here." Would you take the gift? Most of you are thinking, "Yeah." I would too.
If that happened, I'll be honest, I'd probably open the gift, but I'd be thinking, "is that the way you feel about me? Is our relationship so superficial that getting me a gift is a burden to you?" On second thought, I don't think I would take the gift. I'd probably say, "It's ok. You can keep it for yourself."
How do we think God feels when we feel obligated to give or guilt-ridden to give? God, I wanted to keep this for myself, but here. You can have it. God probably feels the same way we would feel.
I give because I love God, and everything I have and everything I hope to be is all for Him, and all comes from Him.
I now have no problem giving to God when I consider what He has given to me.
I have a Savior who loved me so much that He gave. He gave His life so that I could walk with Him and talk with Him and do life together with Him. He sacrificed everything for me. How could I do anything less than doing the same thing for Him?
Dave Ramsey once said if Christians in the United States would just love God enough to give back 1/10 of what they have been given to the work of the church, there would be no more welfare. No more church debt. In the next 90 days, the entire world would hear the message of Jesus, and there would be prayers in schools because Christians would buy all the schools.
What could we do? What could we accomplish if we loved Jesus and his mission the way we claim that we do. Let's be generous people, not because we have to, but because we get to.
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