The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Royal Generosity’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 7/19/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1IpvpoD
Material and Spiritual
Your approach to giving will determine the extent to which you are financially blessed in your life. Do you cringe when it’s time for the offering? Or do you give with joy? Do you give your tithe to God out of ritual? Or do you give to God with passion, knowing that your gift is the invitation God needs to bless you and satisfy all your needs?
Too often, we see giving the wrong way. When we give to others, we think giving is just to satisfy the material need of the recipient. We think we’re simply meeting the perceived need in front of us. When we give to the church, we think we’re giving just to keep the lights on. But giving should be so much more than that!
When we give – either to an individual, or to the church – we are giving to God. Scripture says, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given” (Prov 19:17). Whenever we give alms, we’re actually not giving at all; we’re lending. We’re not just giving to meet a perceived, physical need right in front of us. It’s so much more than that.
Whenever we give our tithes to the local church, we’re actually not giving at all; we’re investing in God’s kingdom. We’re not giving to the pastors or the staff; we’re making an offering directly to God. And Scripture promises that when we invest wisely in this way, we will reap a harvest.
My wife and I attended a concert recently for a well-known Christian worship group. At one point towards the end of the concert, they took up an offering. A young man in front of me turned to his friend, and said, “I’m not going to give. It looks like they have plenty of money! Why do they need more?” This is how a lot of us feel when the offering buckets come around in church.
But thinking along these lines is completely missing the point. Remember, an offering is not a bill. Giving is so much more than just meeting a required, external need in front of us; it’s about meeting an internal, spiritual need within us. God created us with a desire to worship Him. Giving our tithes and offerings to Him is one of the ways we fulfill that desire.
Giving Is Worship to God
Giving our tithes and offerings to God is just as valid a form of worship as raising our hands and singing out to Him. It’s just as necessary a form of obedience as the disciplines of Bible study and prayer.
The writer of Hebrews explains that we’re not just giving to the local pastor, or the local church; we’re giving directly to God:
Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. – Heb 7:8-10
When Abraham tithed to Melchizedek – the priest of the Most High God – he knew he wasn’t simply giving away ten percent of what he had to another man. He was investing ten percent into God’s kingdom.
We don’t give because the church needs it; we give because our hearts need it. Do you ever open your Bible because the pages need to be turned? No; you read God’s Word because it’s the way you transform your mind (Rom 12:2). Do you ever pray because you think God needs to hear you? No; you pray because communication with a loving Father is what give you joy and life! In the same way, we don’t give because God needs our money; He created the earth, and owns everything in it. We give because it’s a sacrifice to God.
CityLight is a tithing church. When our new members sign their membership covenant, the expectation to tithe is clearly outlined. One of the reasons we, as leadership, have no problem whatsoever asking people to tithe, is we have experienced the benefits of tithing in our own lives.
My wife and I have always given more than ten percent. Last year, our giving to the church was equal to about 17% of our net income. But this year, God asked us to step it up even more. I remember driving to work one day, and telling God He has my whole heart. “I want more of You,” I said, “at any cost.” Then I asked God a dangerous question: what does “more at any cost” look like to me?
I heard an answer immediately. “Twenty percent.” It was not what I wanted to hear. We had just had a son, and my wife had made the decision to stay home and take care of him instead of working full-time. We had a mountain of expenses piling up, and I needed all the extra wiggle room I could afford. And God wanted to take even more!
But I immediately said yes. God values obedience more than sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22). If He tells me to do something, I want to do it. Bowing the knee to God’s instruction doesn’t restrict our freedom; it actually increases it. When God knows we are willing to do whatever He asks, He’s going to start asking even more. The more we hear from Him, the more we know how to go out and live according to our design; and when we live according to His design for us, we experience true freedom.
Since the day we started giving twenty percent of our net income to God, we have been amazingly blessed. We haven’t paid full price for a single piece of clothing for our son. God has sent people to bless us with steak dinners and movie nights. Because we were willing to demonstrate God has our whole hearts, He has increased our expectations for what He is willing to provide. We are dreaming with Him for increase, with full confidence that more is on the way.
Who Owns Your Heart?
When we give, we prove to God that He has our heart. Did you know that our giving is actually a reflection of our heart condition?
Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” – Mk 12:41-44
Jesus sat opposite the local house of worship and watched. But He didn’t watch how much people gave; He watched how people gave! He wasn’t impressed by the value of the coins they offered. He was much more concerned with the motivation for their actions: were they giving out of duty, or out of desire? Were they giving because they had to, or were they giving because they get to?
The poor widow didn’t give much. A quadrans makes up 1/64 of a full days’ wages. In today’s terms, she probably gave around $2.00. But Jesus knew she was giving everything she had. She was giving Him her whole heart; and that was exactly what He was after!
Everything you have came from God. He has freely given, and blessed you with material increase. When we give, we are simply giving back a portion of everything He has already given us. We’re proving to God that we can be good stewards over everything He has given us. And as we do, we invite Him to make us stewards over so much more!
Do you remember the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30)? A wealthy ruler gave his goods to his servants. The servant who refused to invest because of fear was punished. But the servants who acted confidently, and invested wisely, were well rewarded! What better investment is there than sowing back into God’s Kingdom?
Our harvest will be determined by the 1) type and 2) quantity of seed we sow. If a farmer plants apple seed, he expects an apple tree. In other words, you need to plant a financial seed to reap a financial harvest. I’ve met too many people who refuse to give God their wallets, and then wonder why their wallet is shrinking. If God doesn’t own something, it will atrophy; but when He takes possession, it will thrive.
If a farmer plants a lot of seed, he expects a big harvest. The tithe literally means ten percent. Yes, that is a lot of money. If it didn’t hurt a little bit, it wouldn’t be a sacrifice. When we tithe, faith is required, because giving is supernatural. We build our faith for finances by liberally sowing, by faith, into God’s Kingdom. Scripture gives us the tithe as a set amount because it’s what we need to invest to expect a harvest!
If you don’t have the money to tithe, tithe anyway. Several years back, we did a “tithing challenge” at our church. Leadership invited every single member of the church to “try” (test according to Mal 3:10) God’s promise for our finances. If anyone who signed up to tithe for 90 days didn’t notice a tangible increase in their finances, we invited them to ask for his money back: no questions asked! And guess what? After 90 days, not a single person asked for his money back. Every single participant had seen a tangible increase in his financial life. God’s Word works!
God’s word invites us to understand the principle of sowing and reaping:
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. – 2 Cor 9: 6-8, 10, 11
God’s Kingdom is counter-intuitive. If we need financial breakthrough, we should give more; not less. We must sow to reap, and we must sow the kind of seed we want to reap!
At CityLight, we pray that every single person will receive the revelation that we can – and should – give from a place of absolute joy in our hearts. We invite anyone who can’t give that way to hold on to their gifts until they can. God loves a cheerful giver. When we sow from a place of joy, we will reap in a place of joy!
Whenever we have a guest minister at our church, I bless his or her socks off. Why? Because Scripture says, “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward” (Matt 10:41). When I bless a prophet, with no strings attached, I know what kind of seed I’m sowing. The best way I can increase the gifting on my life is by investing – liberally – into people God has already made gifted!
A Reflection of Our Royalty
Giving is a reflection of our royalty. No passage illustrates this better than the story of the queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon.
Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels that bore spices, very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. So Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his servants, the service of his waiters and their apparel, his cupbearers, and his entryway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her. Then she said to the king: “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. However I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold, spices in great quantity, and precious stones. There never again came such abundance of spices as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
- 1 Kings 10:1-10
The queen of Sheba came to Solomon for the same reason we come to God: to ask Him the hardest questions we can think of! No matter what she asked, Solomon had an answer. His wisdom far exceeded her highest expectations. And this is the outcome God promises us when we come to Him with the toughest questions imaginable.
The queen of Sheba was so overwhelmed by the royalty and magnificence of Solomon’s kingdom that the only reaction she could think of was to give! She didn’t give because Solomon needed something; she gave because she needed to give. Through Solomon, God was establishing a Kingdom nobody else could build. The queen knew it, and did everything she could to sow into it!
And guess what? The queen of Sheba received a reward for her giving. Because she sowed, she also reaped:
Now King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired, whatever she asked, besides what Solomon had given her according to the royal generosity. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants. – 1 Kings 10:13
King Solomon blessed the queen of Sheba according to the royal generosity. He didn’t bless her because she was needy; he blessed her because she was a queen. And do you know what Scripture says about you?
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light… – 1 Pet 2:9
You are royalty! God invites us to enjoy the same exchange with Him that the queen of Sheba enjoyed with King Solomon! When we bless God because He is King, He will bless us because we are His royal cabinet!
Our giving is a reflection of our status. Scripture tells us we are royalty; but not everyone believes it. Are you giving like royalty? If you’re not freely giving to a God who has freely given everything into your hand, then do you really understand the position God has given us as royal priests?
There is a story of Alexander, the Emperor of Macedonia, giving to a beggar on the road:
The emperor was walking along a highway with his entourage. All of a sudden, a beggar seated at the side of the road cried out for alms. “Please, spare me whatever you can!”
The emperor’s scribe looked at the beggar in disgust. But Alexander the Great turned and gave him his attention. He looked the man in the eyes. Then he said to his scribe, “Give him two gold coins.” The scribe was astonished at the amount the emperor had instructed him to give. He gave the beggar the coins out of his money bag, but then returned the to the emperor, unable to comprehend what had just happened.
“Why?” he asked. “Why did you give him gold coins? Surely copper coins would have adequately met the beggar’s need!”
Alexander responded in royal fashion. “Copper coins suit the beggar’s need. But only gold coins suit Alexander’s giving.”
God wants us to understand that we are royalty. When that reality permeates every part of who we are, it will no longer be a struggle to give; giving will become a privilege and a pleasure.
God is the God of abundance. When Jesus fed the multitudes with 5 loaves and 2 fish, there was more than enough to go around. There were leftovers! There was supernatural abundance. When Jesus told Peter to reposition his net and throw it to the other side of the boat, there were so many fish that the net almost broke! God isn’t interested in barely there, or just enough; He is the God who supplies above all that we ask or think (Eph 3:20-21)!
God desires to bless us because we are His sons and daughters. We are royalty! Now let’s start acting like it.
- by Pastor Mike White
© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.