Series: Mastering the Art of Re-Gifting (1/3)
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
First Baptist Church Henderson KY
- Take your Bibles and open to the Old Testament book of Malachi.
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, just before the Gospel of Matthew. In a moment we’re going to be reading from Malachi, chapter three.
While you’re turning there, let me ask you a question—now don’t answer out loud! My question is: “Have you ever re-gifted anything?” Maybe this past Christmas you re-gifted something. Now for those of you who don’t know, re-gifting is when you take something that you received as a gift and then sometime later you re-packaged it and then you gave it as a gift to someone. That’s re-gifting. It’s not against the law to re-gift and some argue that re-gifting is a resourceful way to save money by giving away something you’d never use. Others view the concept of re-gifting as a kind of tacky thing to do.
One way or the other, more and more people are exploring the secret art of re-gifting. I read a couple of online articles whose authors even provided tips to people who are re-gifting, tips such as “keep track of who gave you the gift in the first place.” Can you imagine accidentally giving the very same gift about a year later to the very person who gave it to you? How embarrassing that would be! Other advice: “use new wrapping paper.” Of course! And this word of advice: “don’t just re-gift an item because it’s convenient if the gift doesn’t suit the person you’re giving it to.” To illustrate, the writer asks, “Would you really go out and buy the latest hip-hop CD for your Aunty Joan?” (Holiday re-gifting etiquette from the re-gifting experts at eBay; The Secret Art of Re-gifting).
Well, however you may feel personally about re-gifting, can I tell you there’s a kind of re-gifting that God likes? Oh, yes! God likes re-gifting. When He gives to us He not only enjoys getting the gift back, but He’s rather upset with us when we don’t re-gift back to Him. Our text this morning illustrates God’s love for our re-gifting the things He has given us and then giving them back to Him.
It’s a classic Old Testament text. Most of you are very familiar with it. We’ve studied it before, but now like we’re going to study it this morning, Malachi 3:8-10.
- Stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.
9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.
This morning I am beginning the first of a very short series, only three messages total, a short series on giving that I have entitled, “Mastering the Art of Re-Gifting.” Now of course we’re not going to be talking about re-gifting in the way the marketers and consumers generally understand the term, but in the way that God teaches about re-gifting, our giving back to Him from what He has given to us.
Most of you will remember that we began last year with a short series on giving and I believe it to be a wise practice each year to have at least one short series on giving. So we’ll have our message this morning and then just two more messages on the next two Sundays. In fact, I’m looking forward to next week as we’ll hear a personal testimony about tithing from one of our members, a well-known local businessman whose practice it has been to give generously for a number of years.
I make no apology whatsoever for preaching on tithing or on giving in general. I hope the reason is obvious: tithing (giving back to God 10% of what He has given us) and financial stewardship is taught in the Bible. To ignore its teachings is to ignore the Bible. It would be like my skipping over other teachings for fear that I might offend. If I started doing that there would be nothing left to preach! Imagine, “Well, I can’t talk about not stealing, because some have stolen and might be offended. I can’t preach about telling the truth because a lot of our folks struggle with lying and I don’t want to offend them. I can’t preach about sexual purity because many of our members battle lust and I might run them off. I can’t preach about trusting Jesus alone as personal savior because many people haven’t done that yet and they may take offense.” You get the idea.
Truth is, those who don’t like preaching on tithing are generally the very ones who—what?—who don’t tithe. I have yet to meet any tither who doesn’t like preaching on tithing. I have yet to hear anyone who tithes come up and say something like, “You know, I think you ought to skip over that stuff because you might give scare people off.”
So why do people not tithe? Some do not tithe because they have not been taught about it. No one has shared with them what the Bible teaches, or they haven’t taken time themselves to study what the Bible teaches. And others do not tithe simply because they have chosen to ignore the biblical teaching. They may reason that the church doesn’t need their money or something like that.
I have chosen our passage in Malachi because it demonstrates the bare minimum that God expects concerning our giving. Let me say this right up front. Listen carefully. When it comes to Christian stewardship, tithing is the bare minimum that God expects. In Christian giving, tithing is just the place to start. It is not the end. It is the beginning. Now we’ll build on that in the next two weeks as we look at 2 Corinthians chapter 8 and then 2 Corinthians chapter 9. We’ll look at grace giving in chapter 8 and cheerful giving in chapter 9. This morning, we’re looking at “storehouse giving.” Storehouse giving is the place to start. It concerns the bare minimum, the tithe, giving back (re-gifting!) 10% back to God. This text answers the question, “Why should we tithe?” Why should young mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers and single adults and small children tithe? Why should people making $100,000 a year tithe and people living below the poverty level tithe? First, because:
I. God is Master of the Tithe (8-9)
God owns absolutely everything. David said it well in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.” God owns absolutely everything. He created all things. He sustains all things. He is the Master of all things, including everything you have. In fact, everything you own is really owned by God.
This is the idea behind Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6:7, “For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” God has given us everything we have. Everything comes from Him—including our money.
This is what God is saying in Malachi chapter 3. Remember that God is speaking to His people in this book. He is giving stinging words of rebuke through the Prophet Malachi. He refers to His people’s failure to tithe as a form of robbery. Many preachers have preached sermons from this text entitled, “Robbery without a Weapon.” We’re robbing God without a weapon when we do not tithe. Look at what God says in verse 8:
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.
9 You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.
Do you hear how forceful and clear this teaching is? We cannot deny that God is teaching He is Master of the tithe and He expects us to re-gift to Him what He has given to us. He expects that we return to Him no less than 10% of what He has given us. That’s the tithe, 10% of what He has given us. He has given us everything. He is Master of everything. He is Master not only of the tithe, but of the remaining 90%, too. But it is precisely because He is Master of the tithe that He refers to our not tithing as robbery.
Now some argue that tithing is only taught in the Old Testament and it is not taught in the New Testament and, therefore, is not expected from the Christian. Well, even if it were true that tithing was not taught in the New Testament we’re still faced with the New Testament teaching on giving which clearly suggests that 10% is just the place for the Christian to begin in his financial stewardship. We’ll see more about that in the two following messages from 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, but let me say that tithing is upheld by our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 23:23. You might jot that reference down and read it carefully, particularly the last part of the verse where Jesus refers to tithing as something that should not be “left undone.”
God is Master of the tithe. When we refuse to give back to God the 10% He has given to us we rob God. And 10% is just the place to start. In my study I came across a sermon by John Piper, the popular pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and author of the classic book, Desiring God. Listen to what Piper says that applies this text even more deeply:
John Piper, “My own conviction is that most middle and upper class Americans who merely tithe are robbing God. In a world where 10,000 people a day starve to death and many more than that are perishing in unbelief the question is not, ‘What percentage must I give?’ but, ‘How much dare I spend on myself?’” (Sermon: “I seek not what is yours, but you”).
I don’t want to guilt you into tithing. That’s legalism; you give because you have to. I’d like to grace you into tithing. That’s grace; you give because you want to. You recognize how much you’ve been blessed. You look back to Calvary’s cross and you remember that it all started with Jesus’ death for your salvation. He died for your sins. He redeemed you through the shedding of His blood. You remember what Jesus did for you and you’ll want to tithe and you’ll understand that tithing, 10%, is just a place to start.
When it comes to tithing, either we will serve God or we’ll serve money. Either God will be our Master or money will be our master. That’s exactly what Jesus says in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money (NIV).” And He’s right. As a servant, you will be subject to one or the other. You’ll be a slave either to the Lord or to money.
Can I say that again? You and I are slaves either to the Lord or to our money. If we’re a slave to our money then we’ll be subject to the mastery of money over our lives. As pastor, I want to fulfill my role as shepherd by protecting the flock from danger. Paul warns us what happens when money has mastery over us. He says in 1 Timothy 9-10: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
But if we’re a slave to the Lord, then we can say with Paul in 1 Timothy 6:6-8, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”
Am I content with merely food and clothing? I confess as your pastor that my heart often says, “No.” How easy it is to be lulled by an advertisement on TV or the desire for some new gadget that causes the stirring of discontentment within. I’m so glad for God’s corrective Word! I open the Bible and read and God takes His loving knife and sticks it in my heart and turns the knife, conducting loving, spiritual surgery. Then I say, “Yes Lord, of course I am content with food and clothing. This world is not my home. Thank you for reminding me to set my heart on things above and not on things below.”
I came across this statement by Ralph Winter that really probes the depth of our affluence in America. Listen to this and see if it isn’t true:
“America today is a save-yourself society if there ever was one. But does it really work? The underdeveloped societies suffer from one set of diseases: tuberculosis, malnutrition, pneumonia, parasites, typhoid, cholera, typhus, etc. Affluent America has virtually invented a whole new set of diseases: obesity, arteriosclerosis, heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, venereal disease, cirrhosis of the liver, drug addiction, alcoholism divorce, battered children, suicide, murder. Take your choice. Laborsaving machines have turned out to be body-killing devices. Our affluence has allowed both mobility and isolation of the nuclear family, and as a result of our divorce courts, our prisons and our mental institutions are flooded. In saving ourselves we have nearly lost ourselves.” (“Reconstruction to a Wartime, not a Peacetime, Lifestyle,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1981), p. 815).
Tithing is simply a matter of obedience. If we’re really serious about following our Lord Jesus Christ with our whole hearts then we’ll commit to tithing as the very minimum we will give back to God because God is Master of the tithe.
Just this past week I received a tithe from a man in prison. He’s a guy who had been visiting with us and will be getting out again soon. He wrote a short note and at the bottom wrote: P.S.: My tithe. Enclosed was a five dollar bill. I don’t know what kind of income you get in prison, but he had gotten enough to send a tithe to the church.
Not only is God Master of the tithe, but number two:
II. God Ministers through the Tithe (10a)
That is, God uses the tithe we give Him in order to minister to others. Look at the first part of verse 10. God says:
10a Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house . . .
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse.” That’s the command. Bring. For what reason? “That there may be food in My house.” That’s the purpose of the tithe. That there may be food in My house. Who’s going to eat the food? Not God! Others. Tithing is a form of worship and ministry. God ministers through the tithe.
The storehouse was the place in the Old Testament temple where the tithes were brought. The church body collected together is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament storehouse. That’s why your tithe is given to the local church and not to some evangelist on TV. God ministers through the tithe, through storehouse giving that is brought into the local church. If you want to give to the evangelist on TV you certainly may do so, but your giving at that point is an offering above the tithe. God expects the tithe, 10%, to be brought into the storehouse. Again, why? “That there may be food in My house.” Applied to today: “That the church may be able to do the ministry I plan to do through it.”
That’s why First Baptist Church Henderson has a budget. When you tithe, you do not give to the budget, you give to the ministries that make up the budget. You bring your tithe into the storehouse, First Baptist Church Henderson, so that “there may be food in God’s house,” that the ministries may be fulfilled, ministries like purchasing Sunday school literature, Discipleship Training materials, Vacation Bible School stuff, food for fellowship meals and all the necessary stuff to prepare and serve those meals, jail ministry, van ministry, FAITH Evangelism, missionary work the world over, salaries to ministers and support staff who lead ministry through the local church, ministries that require electricity, gasoline, heating and air conditioning, chairs to sit on, places to park and on and on it goes. Storehouse giving. What would the church look like if everyone gave like you gave?
Recall John Piper’s earlier statement: The question is not, “What percentage must I give,” but, “How much dare I spend on myself?” That is the point of Luke 3:11 where John the Baptist told the people: “He who has two coats, let him give to him who has none” (that’s giving more than 10%. That’s 50%) or Zacchaeus in Luke 19:7 who said, “Lord, I give half my goods to the poor” (that’s more than 10%, it’s more like 50%).
See I could give you a lot of stirring illustrations about tithing. I could tell you some things that would cause you to laugh or cry. But I just felt led this week to allow the force of the Old Testament prophet’s teachings to do its own work. I felt led to simply let God’s words speak for themselves without any unnecessary help from me. Because it would serve no purpose for God’s glory if you came through the line this morning and said something like, “I loved that joke you told, or that practical illustration” or whatever if you leave her with the impression that tithing really isn’t a big deal and God doesn’t expect you to tithe and so you can just ignore where God says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse.”
In our passage, God gives three reasons why we should tithe. We should tithe because God is the Master of the tithe. But not only is God Master of the tithe, God ministers through the tithe. But not only does God minister through the tithe:
III. God Multiplies what we Tithe (10b)
God gives us a test. In essence, He says, “Try me out on this. Put me to the test and see if it doesn’t work for you.” Second part of verse 10:
10b . . . And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.
God is not saying that if we’ll give the 10% He expects that He will lavish material prosperity upon is in the form of bags of cash, cars, and houses that we consume upon ourselves. He is simply saying that He will meet all of our needs. That’s the idea behind the “blessing” He promises to pour out through the windows of heaven, blessings like sending rain so tha land is fruitful again. He will bless us the same way Paul promises blessing in Philippians 4:19: “And my God shall supply all your need (not greed!) according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
When we practice divine re-gifting, giving back to God at least 10% from what He has given us, God multiplies that 10% as He gives back to us. So we “re-gift” by giving back to God and He “re-gifts” by giving back to us. Isn’t that wonderful?
I know I have shared with you before that when Michele and I many years ago committed to “re-gifting” by returning to the Lord at least 10% every week we did so during a time when my salary was shrinking rather than expanding. In the early 90s, I was employed by the state of Georgia with the Board of Pardons and Paroles and our governor decided it would be a good idea to freeze the salaries of all state employees. We received a cost of living increase, but that was pretty much it for awhile. I can’t explain it all fully; all I can tell you is that when we committed to giving back to God, to returning the bare minimum of 10%, God multiplied what we gave. He opened the windows of heaven and poured out for us such blessing that there was not room enough to receive it. We had no trouble paying our bills, our rent, our automobile payments, our credit payments, our student loans. He met all of our needs. In fact, God sent in a windfall one day, prompting someone to pay off the balance of my student loan. We believe this gift was God’s way of honoring our tithing and multiplying the tithe for His glory.
God loves to magnify Himself through our obedience. He loves to glorify Himself most in the situations where we throw up our hands and say, “I can’t do it! It’s impossible!” but then we turn to Him and say, “Okay, I know this really doesn’t seem to make sense to me, but I’m going to trust You, God. I’m going to take You at Your word. I’m going to ‘Try You now in this.’” It’s especially those times we come to Him fully leaning upon Him and trusting Him when He does a beautiful work of grace in our lives.
Recall John Piper, “The question is not, ‘What percentage must I give?’ but, ‘How much dare I spend on myself?’”
Will you stand for prayer? I want to challenge you to at least begin to tithe. The tithe, 10%, is the bare minimum our Lord expects. But remember, the tithe is only the beginning of our giving. It is not the end. I need to grow more in this area myself. I don’t believe in preaching something to you that I am not willing to do myself. While I tithe, and have for many years now, I’ve got a lot more growing to do in this area. So let me invite you to bow your heads with nobody looking except God. Heads bowed and eyes closed. I’m bowing my head and closing my eyes, too.
If you are presently tithing, would you thank God for the grace He gave you sometime past for being obedient to this teaching and being blessed by it? Just take a moment and thank Him. Now ask Him, “Recognizing that tithing is the minimum you expect, how do you want me to grow in this area?”
If you are not presently tithing, talk to God in your spirit. Tell Him you want to begin to be obedient right now to His teaching. Tell Him that. Commit to beginning right now to storehouse giving. Tell Him the next opportunity you have to give you will re-gift to Him what He has given you and you’ll begin a regular practice of tithing.
You’re here this morning and you’ve never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, God doesn’t want your money. He wants you. Turn to Him today. Trust Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.
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