Your session will end in  seconds due to inactivity. Click here to continue using this web page.

Concerning the Collection, Part 2

1 Corinthians 16:2 November 06, 1977 1884

1 Corinthians Chapter 16, we're ending our study of 1 Corinthians.  We're looking at the first four verses and discussing the subject concerning the collection.  Now you notice that we took the collection already so that we're not just trying to pump you up and drain of everything you've got this morning.  We're really just trying to deal with what the word of God has to say and hope that it has impact on the future, not just on some emotional response for the moment. 

Now the Bible does contain a number of warnings about money.  Best summarized perhaps in the statement of the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 6, verse 10 where he said, "For the love money is the root of all kinds of evil."  Our Lord put it tersely when He said you can't serve Got and money.  Money can definitely be a curse.  There's no question about it.  For money, Achan brought defeat on the armies of Israel and death on himself.  For money, Balaam sinned against God and tried to curse God's people.  For money, Delilah betrayed Samson to the Philistines.  For money, Gehazi lied to Naaman and Elisha and became a leper.  For money, Ananias and Sapphira became the first hypocrites in the early church and died on the spot.  For money, Judas sold the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver and damned his own soul.  For money, many have been cursed.

In fact, the apostle Paul says that those who would be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many hurtful and foolish lusts which drown men in perdition and destruction, 1 Timothy 6:9.  So money can be a tremendous curse.  On the other hand, the Bible teaches that money can also be a great blessing.  The Bible teaches us that God says the silver and the gold are mine.  Deuteronomy 8 says "That is God who has given us the power to get well."  1 Corinthians 4:7, the apostle Paul says, "What do you have that you didn't receive as it were from the hand of God."

James says "every good and perfect thing comes down from the Father of lights and whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."  The Bible says that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  The Bible talks about the fact that money can cause us to be greatly blessed when we invest it with God.  So many can be a curse or money can be a blessing.  It all depends on the attitude you have toward it.  If you have an attitude of sharing and an attitude of giving, Jesus said, "It's more blessed to give than receive."  You'd be better off giving.  You'd be more blessed giving than just taking Jesus said.

So there's a basic attitude.  The wrong attitude toward money, the wrong attitude toward wealth and possessions, the Bible calls covetousness.  And covetousness is a very, very dominant sin in human kind.  In fact, it's in the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments that thou shalt not covet.  That's basic.  And that's incidentally basic to man to covet.  In fact, as I thought about this, I would venture to say that it's probably the first sin manifest in a child.  Have you noticed that?  How the first way that a child usually manifests it's depravity is it's mine.  Or give me that.  Covetousness.

And you see that in your little children.  My wife's sister, Mary, had a baby yesterday so we're taking care of Mary's two little girls and they're, I think, about four and five or so.  They're little like our Melinda who's four.  And as I was getting up this morning, I noticed them all playing in Melinda's room.  And so I went downstairs and a little while later Melinda came down and sat on the steps with a look on her face like this.  She put her chin in her hands.  And she said "they're playing with my toys."  And I looked at the steps through the little pieces of wood and I said, "do you think that that's the way Jesus would want you to feel?"  She says, "yes."  I said, well, we'll have to regroup the forces and try a different approach.  But I mean that's just part of human nature isn't it?

You see that early.  And that is a problem that we have to overcome and we struggle with that all our lifelong don't we. And our society, you see, just panders covetousness like mad.  They just pour it on that we need this and we need that.  You've got to have this, and you deserve it and on and on and on and on.  They pander that.  It's tough to fight.  You know, I was reading a book by K. F. W. Pryor who's written a couple of very helpful Bible study books.  This one on God and mammon.  And in it he said that he had heard a man by the name of Catherwood say he had talked to a priest and this priest said at the end of his life, "I have listened to confessions all my life.  I have heard every sin imaginable confessed except for covetousness which I have never heard confessed once in my entire life."

Boy that's a tough one.  Covetousness is a subtle one and it's the thing that robs us of the liberty to give in the way God wants us to give so that we could be blessed in the way God wants to bless, you see.  You know, the apostle Paul was honest enough to face that sin.  In Romans Chapter 7 when he was talking about his own spiritual testimony of how he came to Christ and how his Christian life kind of started out and the conflicts he had.  He says in Romans 7:7, "Is the law sin, God forbid.  Nay.  "But," this he says, "I had not known sin but by the law."  I didn't really know sin unless there was a law to show it to me.  I didn't know I was violating a specific unless the specific was so stated. And so then he goes on to give an example.  He says, "I didn't know coveting except the law said thou shalt not covet, but sin taking the occasion by the commandment wrought in me all manner of coveting."  He says, you know, the thing that woke me up to my sinfulness was when I saw the sin of coveting and I realized I was a coveter. 

There's an honest man.  But later on his life in Acts 20:33 he says this, "I have coveted no man's silver, no man's gold, and no man's apparel."  You know what happened?  The Lord gave him victory over coveting.  But he was honest enough to admit that it was a problem at the start.  Now we have to have the right attitude toward money.  And the right attitude is not coveting.  The right attitude is a liberal, free, willing, sacrificial heart.  And that's what Paul is after in the first four verses of 1 Corinthians 16.

Now the little phrase "now concerning the collection," reminds us of a phrase earlier.  "Now concerning spiritual gifts," and introduces to use another one of the areas of discussion that the Corinthians were having.  This is another thing they wanted information about.  So that's why he writes about it.  Now concerning the collection, I have a few principles I want to give you and these are for you today too folks just like they were for them.

Now you remember last week, we look at the first two principles that he gives them.  Concerning giving of concerning the collection in the church, principle number is the purpose of giving.  And we saw it, didn't we, in verse 1, that giving is for the saints.  That we as believers have a primary responsibility to give to the needs of other believers whether they are spiritual or physical.  We are to invest so that the believers may have their needs met.  We are to give to each other.  We are to have all things in common like the early church.  We are to share everything freely that we possess.  We really don't own anything.  We just hold it in trust and if somebody else needs it more than we do, then it's theirs.  Whatever it is. 

So we are to share.  Now that's basic.  The purpose of giving then is to direct itself at the saints.  And we saw last time too, didn't we, that sometimes it's the saints in need and sometimes it's the saints who lead.  But we are to give to meet the needs of the church, the saints, the believing community, whether their needs are physical or spiritual.  Maybe we're giving so that we can provide food for their soul as well as food for their body.

Secondly, we saw the period of giving, not only the purpose, but the period there, didn't we?  In verse 2, and the first day of the week was the period for giving.  We are to deal with stewardship weekly.  We are to face the reality of giving weekly.  God doesn't want us to store it up until some forgotten tomorrow.  God wants us to be giving on a constant systematic week by week basis so that we're always facing the reality of stewardship.

Now we come this morning to the third point.  And we'll cover several this morning and finish up next time. And I call this place of giving.  And I'm going to get a little academic on this point because this is a confusing point for a lot of people and I want to kind of straighten some things out and hopefully it'll be practical for you.  The place of giving, I believe, is to be the church.  I think that's what Paul is saying here and  want to show you why.

Verse 2, "On the first day of the week let everyone of you," watch this phrase, "lay by him in store."  Okay, "lay by him in store," it says in the authorize.  Now let me talk about that a minute.  There have been many people who have tried to interpret this.  How are we to give?  Are we just to keep a little bank account and dole out money to the needs as we see them?  Are we to give our money to various and sundry organizations?  Are we actually to bring all of our money just dump it in the church and let the church decide?  Well, how are we to do it?  Well, here we have the phrase, "lay by him in store."  To what does this phrase refer?

People, it's very vital to understand to what it refers because we must know the place of giving.  Where are we to give?  Well, since as early as the second and third century, after the church began, there have been some commentators who interpreted this as a private personal account in the home or a private bank.  Now this is not uncommon today.  There are some very fine Bible scholars who teach that even today.  But what the verse is saying is that each of us is to lay by himself in store, since it doesn't say the church, they assume in some personal storehouse X number of funds every week and keep building up that fund to be available to be used when God calls on us to invest it with Him.

All right?  Others say no, no, lay by him in store and the store really is the church, which is true.  Well, let me say this.  I first of all believe that there is reason as I shared with you last week to have some money in an account to be available for those needs that God brings directly to your attention.  But I believe this text is teaching us that we are to place our money in the church primarily.  This is to be the primary pattern of giving that Paul is seeking here.  Now let me show you why I say that.  And there are several reasons.

From the earliest years of the church, and you need to focus on this now and think with me, because this puts a very practical concept into your giving.  From the earliest years of the church it was the pattern of giving that the saints would take their monies and they would give them to the church leaders and the church leaders would distribute them.  So that giving in a sense was indirect to the need.  The church leaders would determine the needs.  The church leaders would distribute to meet the needs rather than every individual simply giving money to whatever and whenever, wherever he wanted.

Now let me show you how this functioned by turning to Acts Chapter 4, verse 35.  Acts 4:35, a very familiar passage, but one that will remind us of this basic common practice in the church.  Acts 4:35 says...well, backing up to verse 34 to get a start on the thing. It says, "Neither was there any among them," and it's talking about the early church in Jerusalem, just a new church, just in its beginnings.  "There wasn't any lack among them for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them and brought the prices of the things that were sold."  And where did they bring it?  "And laid them down at the apostles feet and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.  Then there's an illustration in 36 of Barnabas who did that.  Verse 37, having land he sold it, brought the money, laid it at the apostles feet.

Now there you have the common practice of the early church.  It was to make a central distribution point being the leaders of the church who would then disseminate the funds to the area of need.  Now this is very vital and we'll see more about this next week as we look at specifics regarding the leadership that uses the money.  But I want us to understand initially that the churches pattern was to bring it to the leaders at a central point of distribution.  Now the reason I say that is because there is no statement anywhere at all in the New Testament about keeping private funds.  That is not common to the early church.  We can't find any indication of such practice.  But rather it was deposited in the care of those who were in spiritual responsibility and done so on a week to week basis on the first day of the week and those spiritually minded men determined the distribution of said funds. 

Now, I want to go a step further to show you why I believe this.  Not only does it seem that this was the pattern in history, but the phrase here "to lay by him in store" does not necessarily mean in a private fund.  To lay by himself simply means that each individual by himself in a very personal and a very private kind of way is to set aside this giving.  In other words, the by himself doesn't mean beside himself in his house.  It means that he is to determine this by himself.  This is a private personal thing.  In other words, nobody's going to tell you how much to set aside, how much to invest with God, how much to give, that is something you determine by yourself and then you lay it in store.

Now what does it mean to lay it in store?  Well, the Greek word, thesauridso, from which we get Thesaurus, which you might recognize.  There's a book called a Thesaurus which is a treasury of words.  The word means treasury.  It could mean treasury, it could mean money box, it could mean a chest, it could mean a warehouse, it could mean a chamber.  It has a lot of meanings, but it's where you put treasure.  It's where you put valuables.  Well, the thing is the word then doesn't tell us anything.  It doesn't tell us anything about where this thing is, but if we study history, we learn something very interesting. 

In the early years of the pagan temples in Greece and in the Roman world, the pagans would give their money and their offerings at the pagan temples.  And all the pagan temples had what were known as thesaurus or the treasure boxes.  And people would come with their money and place it the thesaurus, the treasury of the temple.  This was true in Judaism, wasn't it?  The temple treasury, don't you read about that in the gospels?  This was true in many pagan religions.  In fact, it got to be so that the temple actually would come to the place where it would not only receive the gifts of the people, but it would even hold their money for them.  So that temples...pagan temples became banks.  The biggest banks in the Greek world were in temples.  And the reason because the people worshiped the gods they worshiped out of fear and nobody would rob the temple bank.  Safest place to put a bank.

They actually had safe deposit boxes that you could have for your own deposit and so forth.  So the idea in terms of the cultural background is of a treasury associated with the meeting place or the place of worship.  The idea of the term simply means to set by yourself privately and devoting your own thinking and self-determination to the determining of whatever amount you're going to give and to place it in the treasury.  Now the use of the term treasury in that world would have commonly brought to their mind the treasury at the house of worship.  So it seems best to see that the phrase is simply saying put your money in the treasury and they would know that the treasury would be that which was common to their place of worship.

Further, I think it's important for us to note this, at the end of verse 2 he says this, "you do this on the first day of the week so that when I come there be no collections."  Now listen to that.  "There be no collections," it's the very same word that's in verse 1, collections.  Now listen, if they just put it in a private fund every week when he came, what would the first thing be that they'd have to do?  They'd have to have a collection, right?  If they had it all at home.  But what he is saying here is that this should work out in such a way that when I come I don't have to take a special offering, because it will already be there available.

So the very context indicates that these would be collected and ready to be distributed when he arrived.  Further, I would add it says on the first day of the week.  If this is some private fund in the home of what import is it to be the first day of the week when this is done?  The only sense that that would make would be if the first day of the week was in view of them coming together in the church and giving in common as was their custom.  So I think it's best to all that said and done to see this as giving to the common treasury of the local church for distribution by the leaders who will be lead of the Spirit to distribute to those places where it has it's greatest need.

So what I'm saying beloved is that you have a primary responsibility according to the word of God here to lay by in a private act of giving systematically, week by week, some of your funds as you desire in your heart to do to the church so that the church can then determine its distribution.  Now this is a very practical pattern for giving.  But this is what I believe the text is teaching.  Now somebody might say are you saying John that you should never meet the need of an individual without going to the church?  Not at all.  I think you have every responsibility and every biblical injunction to meet a need directly as well as indirectly through the church.

For example, 1 John 3 says "If you see your brother has a need and you shut up your mercy or your compassion how dwells the love of God in you."  Reach out and meet his need.  If you're like the Good Samaritan, you're on the road and you see a man who's torn up and bleeding, then get over there and meet his need.  Don't say by the way I'm going to the temple, I'm going to try to get a check processed, I'll be back in three days.  Meet the guys need.  And that's why I said that for us and our family understanding this principle we keep a little there so that not only are we systematically giving to the church for the work of the Lord and the word and so that the leaders can distribute it, but we keep a little bit over here so that we can meet needs as needs arise, because sometimes needs are very, very immediate.

So there is direct and indirect, but the indirect giving, the proportionate giving, the majority kind of giving, the systematic giving, the regular dealing with stewardship is to be done on the first day of the week and entrusted to the care of the treasury of the church for distribution at the determination and direction of the Godly people who lead.  And that's why, beloved, you want Godly people in responsibility in the church. 

So we see the purpose of giving, to meet the needs of the saints.  The period of giving, the first day of the week, and the place of giving, the church.  Fourthly, fourthly, the participants in giving.  The participants in giving and this is...I'm just going to state very simply, because it's not hard.  Verse 2, again, "On the first day of the week let every one of you."  And in the Greek that means let every one of you.  That's right.  It means that in Italian and Hebrew and French too.  Let every one of you, same thing.  Nobody's exempt.  Some people might say well, I can't give money so I'll give my talent.  No, no, no, everybody...you say well, I give my money to this thing and that organization and I keep mine over...no, no, every one of you is to take this systematically week in and week out and to place it in the treasury of the church for distribution to the needs of the saints.  It's a matter of stewardship.  Every one of you say well, I'm very poor.  Well, if you have anything, you have something to give, right?  If you have anything, you have something to give.

Mark Chapter 12, interesting story you'll remember.  "And Jesus sat opposite the treasury and He watched how the people threw money into the treasury."  Now wouldn't that be an interesting way to spend the day?  Just watch the people come by and give.  You learn a lot about character that way.  Pharisees used to have a trumpet blow to announce their arrival and they would give.  But He was sitting there watching them give.  And it says, "And that many that were rich threw in a lot."  The rich people they gave a lot.  There came a certain poor widow.  "She threw in two mites, which makes a farthing."  Do you know how much a mite is?  An eighth of a cent.  So two-eighths of a cent would be a fourth of a cent.  She threw it in.  "He called His disciples and said to them, truly I say to you this poor widow has cast more in than all they who cast into the treasury.  For all they did cast in of their abundance, but she of her want did cast in all that she had even all her life support."

You know what, she gave what percent?  A hundred percent.  If you have anything, you have something to give.  Everybody gives.  Everybody. You say, well, if I had more, I'd give more.  You know, it's like the guy was saying to his friend if you had two farms would you give one to the Lord?  Yes.  If you had two fields, would you give one to the Lord?  Yes.  If you had two pigs would you give one to the Lord?  Now you know I have two pigs. 

See in Luke 16:10, Luke 16:10 it says, now mark this one, "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.  And he that is unjust in the least is also unjust in the much."  If you haven't been faithful in the unrighteous money, who will commit to your trust the true riches?"  In other words, if you can't prove yourself when you're poor, being rich isn't going to change your spirituality.  Being rich just compounds your problem.  If you can't trust God when you're poor, believe me it's going to be tough when you're rich and you've got all the resources you need apart from Him.

So 2 Corinthians 8 gives us the pattern for the poor who gave.  In 2 Corinthians 8, verse 2 it says that the Macedonians...don't even turn to it, we'll just hurry on by.  I'll just remind you of it.  It says, "That the Macedonians," listen to this, "gave liberally and abundantly out of their deep poverty."  Isn't that great.  And in verse 7 it says the reason...verse 5, it says the reason was, "Because they first gave themselves to God and then out of the giving themselves to God, they gave abundantly to God out of their deep poverty."  If you have anything, you have something to give.  And it's an investment with God.

Fifth, we've seen the purpose for giving, the period for giving, the place for giving, the participants in giving, and fifth, the proportions of giving.  Now what is to be the proportion and we're going to touch on some material that we've covered in the past.  How much are we to give?  You know, and I know this is a delicate question and I am just, in fact, I'm going to be talking with some publishers this week.  They're going to be putting out a book pretty soon on the subject of biblical patterns for giving.  And we've talked about this in years past when we planned to build our building.  We did a series on this.  I want to refresh your thinking on this this morning.

How are we to give?  Well, the common answer is you've got to ten percent.  I read a book this week on why you should give ten percent.  A whole book on that.  They're advocating that the ten percent is what we are to give.  Is that right?  Is that what we're to give?  Well, let's find out by looking at some biblical thoughts about this.  Let's trace just very quickly, I'm going to just run this by so hold on.  I'm going trace...and by the way if you need help on this, you should get the tapes entitled the biblical plan for giving so that you really understand this in detail.  But anyway, you look back at the time before Moses, that's a block of time from Adam to Moses, then from Moses to Christ, then from Christ to now.  And those are the three great periods of history we'll examine in our thinking.

Prior to Moses what was the giving pattern?  Well, some people say well, they gave a tenth.  Abram gave a tenth to Melchizedek.  Jacob gave a tenth to the Lord in Genesis.  And they're right.  So they say, you see the tenth was before the mosaic law, so it must supersede the mosaic law and still be in vogue so the tenth is the pattern.  But what's interesting about that is to go back and to study, in fact, the time before Moses.  You know what you find out.  That it's right.  Abram gave a tenth and Jacob gave a tenth.  But you know what's interesting about that?  Abram gave a tenth one time in his whole life and he lived over 160 years.  And never do we have record that he ever gave that much or that amount again.

Jacob did it once and beyond that, those are the only two who ever did it.  And you have myriads and myriads and myriads of offerings given in that time.  From Cain and Abel's first offering all the way through, all of the offerings ever given, you only have two times when they were a tenth and in neither case was the tenth commanded and in neither case was the tenth binding and neither case did the tenth maintain itself as a standard of giving beyond the point that which it was given at that time.

And you might be interested to know that giving a tenth was a common practice among the pagans.  Because basic counting is done in increments of ten because of our fingers and our toes.  People have always counted that way and ten has been always the symbol of fullness.  So when a pagan would want to offer something to a god, he would give a tenth of it because that symbolized the total.  That symbolized the totality.  And Abram on his own volition simply chose to do that.  In fact, it says in Hebrews that he gave a tenth of the top of the heap.  So it may not have been a tenth of the whole of the spoils he gained, but just a tenth of the top of the heap.  The best of the spoils.  You remember he won a battle against five kings and he wanted to thank God somehow for the victory and then he met this man named Melchizedek who was a priest of God, a priest long before the Levitical priesthood.  Just a priest, a unique Godly man and to show his love for God and his thanks, he made an offering to this priest, which was fine.  And the tenth was simply arbitrary in his heart.  That's what he chose to do.

And later Jacob's one time act was even an act of sin, because he was giving a tenth as a pagan would to try to bribe God.  Apart from that you have no indication that it was ever commanded, ever prescribed or ever demanded.  You say well, then do you have required giving in that period of time?  Yes, you do.  In Genesis 41 and in Chapter 47.  In those two chapters which we won't take time to study, but in those two chapters God required giving.  You know what He said?  He said that the inhabitance of Egypt, He said, there's going to be a famine, right?  Remember that?  Seven years of plenty, seven years of famine.  He said in order to provide for that and in order to take care of the needs of the people, command every individual to give one-fifth of all that he has.  What percent is that?  Twenty percent. 

So God laid out 20% as a standard of giving for one reason, taxation.  He was funding the government of Egypt to meet the needs of its people.  That was the only indication of a prescription ever given in the pre-mosaic time.  That was the only time an amount was ever prescribed. All other offerings were completely free will, free choice, give whatever you please.  The only time God ever laid it out was in taxation of the government on the people to provide for its needs.

Now let's move into the time of Moses.  You say what happened in the time of Moses?  Bet He sure got it there.  Yes, but you know something very interesting, listen to this.  In Leviticus 27, God said, "Here's my law.  You give a tenth of everything you have and it goes to the Levites."  You know who the Levites were?  They were the priests.  Now watch, He says, "You give it to the Levites, they are the priests."  Well, Israel, if you'll remember, was what's called a theocracy, not a democracy, but a theocracy.  That is God ruled.  And God ruled in Israel through leaders.  And the leaders were the priests.  The priests were the Senators and the Congressmen and the Presidents and the Governors and the Mayors and all the other judges and everything else, the priests took all those roles so they were the public servants.

And the tenth that was paid as the Levites tax was to pay the salaries of the public servants.  Beloved, it was not free will giving, it was taxation again.  Do you understand that?  It was to fund the government.  Then in Deuteronomy Chapter 12, they were required to give another ten percent every year and this was to go for the funding of the national holidays and the national feasts and so forth.  And this was to take care of national unity and national religion.  So that you had ten percent every year and another ten percent every year and then in Deuteronomy 12, there was a third ten percent that was to go to the poor and that was welfare and that was required every third year.  So ten percent, ten percent, and three and a third were annual funding for the government.

Now listen, the tithe is related to that.  It never was related to freewill giving.  It never was related to spontaneous giving.  It never is that thing that comes out of the heart to the Lord.  It was required taxation.  And in Malachi 3 when it says "Bring your tithe and offerings into the storehouse, it is..." the word for storehouse in the Hebrew there is the temple treasury.  Pay your taxes he's saying.  Now notice the tithe in the Old Testament was not freewill giving to God out of love.  It was pay your taxes.  You say well, John, where was the giving then?  Where was the free giving?  Isn't it interesting, by the way, that it was 23% or so then and it was 20% or so in the time of Egypt and what is the base of taxation today in America, 20%.

So we're not too far a field from the standard God set up a long time ago. Well, you say then, during the time you were paying the funding to the national government and paying your taxes and all in Israel, did you have any liberty to give?  Where was the freewill giving?  Oh, the freewill giving was there too, but that was over and above.  Listen, Proverbs 3:9, Proverbs 3:9 says this, here's the pattern for giving in the Old Testament time in Moses time.  Here it is, "Honor the Lord with your substance and the first fruits of all your increase so shall your barns be filled with plenty and your presses burst out with new wine."  How much were they to give?  Whatever you want.

Just honor the Lord and give what you want, but remember the more generous you are the better the harvest and the fatter your barn's going to be.  And then over in the 11thChapter of Proverbs you have another principle for giving.  He says this, "There is he that scatters and yet increases.  He that withholds more than his fitting intends to poverty."  You want to lose your money, hoard it.  You want to gain, scatter it.  "The liberal soul shall be made fat."  That was the principle.  In other words, God was saying this, look, you can give whatever you want, give the first fruits, the best you've got, give out of your substance and if you hold back, you'll tend to poverty and if you scatter it, put out a lot, God will make you rich.  That was giving.

Now I'll show you an illustration of this kind of giving.  Look with me and I want you to turn to these passages for just a brief moment to Exodus and I want to call your attention to Chapter...well, let's look at Chapter 25, verse 1.  Now they were building the tabernacle, "and the Lord spoke to Moses and said speak to the children of Israel that they bring me an offering."  Now this isn't the tithe.  It's not the first ten percent, the second percent or the third ten percent, this is something they can do whatever they want.  Now notice, "of every man that gives it willingly with his heart you shall take my offering."  What's the standard then?  Whatever you want, whatever's in your heart, whatever you're willing to do.  A beautiful spirit.

That's always the way God was.  God didn't tell Abram how much to give when he got joyous.  He just gave what was on his heart.  God didn't tell Abel what to give.  He just gave what was in his heart.  God didn't tell Noah what to do when he made the offering to God after the flood.  He gave what was in his heart.  And it's the same principle here.  Now watch in Exodus 35 what happens.  In Exodus 35, it's time to collect the offering.  Now you've got all the instructions on the tabernacle.  It's all set to go and Moses spoke to the congregation and said "this is what the Lord says."  Exodus 35:5, "Take you from among you an offering to the Lord whosoever is of a willing heart.  Let him bring it an offering of the Lord."  Listen, God does not want you to give grudgingly or of, what, necessity.  There's not any prescription beloved.  He just wants you to give whatever you want to give.  Whatever you're willing to give, but He says, remember what you give, I will multiply.  What you hold you won't see any multiplication on.

So remember to be liberal about it.  So He says, get them to bring gold, silver, bronze, blue, purple, scarlet, any old thing they want, whatever's in their heart.  In verse 21 of Exodus 35, "And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him up.  And everyone whom his spirit made willing.  And they brought the Lord's offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation and for all its services and the holy garments."  You see, just a matter of whatever they want.

Well, you know, how the story ended.  They kept bringing so much stuff that finally they had to make an announcement.  Verse 6 of Chapter 36.  "And Moses gave the commandment and caused it to be announced through the camp saying, let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.  So the people were restrained from bringing for the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it and too much."  Isn't that great?  Boy I've often thought of the day when we come to church and say folks there will be no more offerings we have too much.  But it ought to be so, you know that?  It ought to be so.  It was then.  And they didn't need a prescription and they didn't need an amount.  All they needed was a heart that was willing and a spirit that was moved and they gave, because they knew they were investing with a God who can't be out-given.  Do you understand that?

Now that's always been God's pattern for giving.  The only time the tenth ever came into play was in taxation, not in freewill giving.  You say well, when you get into the present day, how do we view this thing?  Well, what about now?  We don't live in Israel.  No, but we have the same two kinds of giving.  And the New Testament tells us to do two things with our money, basic two obligations.  One, Romans 13, verse 6, Romans 13, verse 6, "For this cause pay ye taxes."  That's right.  For the IRS are God's ministers.  That's what it says here.  It doesn't say IRS, but it means them.  "Render therefore to all their dues, pay every last dime, tribute to whom tribute due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor."  Now do you see what the New Testament is saying.  It's saying the same thing.  You...prior in the time of Egypt, in the time of Egypt was the standard?  Pay your 20% taxes to Egypt and give to God what you want.  In Moses time, pay your 23 1/3 or whatever it was to Israel and give God whatever you want?  Today what is it?  Pay your income taxes.  The United States government prescribes it, that's required giving, and give God whatever is in your heart to give.  There's no tenth, there's no percent involved at all.

That's up to you.  But do it every week and everybody do it.  And David said, "I will not give the Lord that which cost me nothing."  Do it sacrificially.  Do it magnanimously.  And I'll tell you a great truth people, when you start to give to God, God starts to return it.  You know, it's like planting seed.  It is absolutely like planting seed.  If we had time we could go across this room and you have testimonies, when I first taught these truths and within about a matter of six months or so we go $500,000.00 in gifts to begin to build this building.  And I bet if we could have people stand up, they could tell how God has blessed those gifts since that time.  Since they invested with Him.

Giving to God is like planting seed.  Just to show you that, let me draw you to Luke 6:38.  Luke 6:38, and I want you to hear the words of Jesus.  He gives us a pattern here.  Watch, "Give," did you get that?  You say how much?  Give me a figure a Lord.  It's a lot easier to...if I could just know I'm spiritual.  Won't have to worry about it.  Get this thing objective as we can here.  No, He just says, "Give and it shall be given unto you."  Watch, "Good measure, press down, shaken together and running over shall men give into your bosom."  In other words, what you give you'll get back, only you'll get back more than you gave, right?  Running over.  But watch the next line.  "And with the same measure that you measure, it'll be measured to you again."  In other words, the only thing you'll get a return on is what you give.

People say to me, how much should I give?  I say to them, how much do you want?  How much do you want God to return an eternal dividend on.  You say yeah, but I know what'll happen to me, God will give me all spiritual blessings.  That wouldn't be bad would it?  But just in case you're really hung up on that, 2 Corinthians 9:6 says, listen, "But this I say he who sows sparingly, shall reap sparingly.  He who sows bountifully shall reap bountifully."  You see the same principle.  The amount you give is the amount you'll return on.  "Every man then according as he purposes in his heart to let him give not grudgingly or of necessity for God loves a cheerful giver."  Now watch, "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you that you always will have all sufficiency in all things."  He won't just give you back the spiritual blessing.  You'll have all sufficiency in all things.  And he goes in verse 10 to say, "He will minister bread for your food.  He will multiply the seed you have sown and He will increase the fruits of your righteousness."  So you will receive the physical bread and the spiritual fruits of righteousness by investing with God.  You can't beat it.  It's the greatest deal there is.  Better than home savings.  Harry Vonzellenotwithstanding.  You can't beat it.

I'll tell you the spirit of it.  Luke 19, Luke 19 is the spirit.  There was a little man who lived in a tree for a day his name was Zacchaeus, chief tax collector.  And he was rich, oh was he rich.  And he was curious about Jesus.  And Jesus invited Himself to dinner at his house.  And it was interesting what happened in verse 8.  Luke 19:8, "And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, behold Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor."  Now you say now wait a minute brother Zacchaeus, we do appreciate your generosity, however, ten percent is all that's really required, not 50.  Jesus didn't say that.  "I'm going to give 50% of everything I have to the poor and if I took anything from anybody by a false accusation, I'm going to give him back 400%." 

And Jesus said to him, "This day is salvation come to this house for he is a son Abraham."  He is a son of Abraham who did this.  But what he's really saying there, of course, is that he is a son of Abraham in the sense that he is a spiritual son.  His salvation is proven.  Isn't it amazing that it is true that by their fruits you shall what?  Know them.  And isn't true what John said "if you see your brother has need and you shut up your mercy how dwells the love of God in you?  And isn't it right that James says, "your faith minus works is dead."  You know, you can tell a true believer because out of his heart comes this great magnanimity.  This great desire to give.  Dear Zacchaeus was saved and Jesus said it was obvious by the fact that he wanted to give all this way, because he had a giving heart.  Boy if there's one thing a Christian ought to have it's a giving heart.  If there's one thing a Christian ought not to have is covetousness.

So the amount, what is the proportion?  What does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 16:2?  How much are we to give Paul?  "You are to give just exactly what you in your heart determine."  So says Paul, "Let every one of us purpose in his heart what he will give, but be sure it's not grudging or of necessity but because the Lord loves," what, "a cheerful giver."  How much are you to give to the Lord?  Whatever you want.  How often are you to give the Lord?  Constantly, dealing with it on a week by week basis.  Where are you to give to the Lord?  Into the church so that it can be distributed by those who have spiritual oversight.  For what reasons are you to give to the church that the church might support its own spiritually and physically and meet their needs.  Now we'll finish the text next time.  Let's pray.

Thank You Father for a good fellowship this morning.  This is so practical, Father.  This just isn't foggy theology.  This is right down where the rubber meets the road where we touch life.  We thank You that You've given us a clear word that blessing isn't something we have to kind of look up in the sky for and hope it'll drop on us like some mysterious benefit.  But blessing is something as tangible as knowing that when we act in generosity and love by giving freely and abundantly and sacrificially and lovingly to Your cause, You return to us abundant blessing.  Teach us to sow bountifully that we might reap bountifully.  And Father, help us to know that we've just got to get a glimpse of eternal life of heaven so that we don't get too wrapped up in this world.  So that we don't waste our resources and our energies and our funds.  Spinning our wheels in this age when an investment in eternity is really what matters.  Help us to get that perspective Father.  Help us here at Grace Church to be able to fulfill those visions and those dreams and those desires and those ministries that lay before us that You've laid on our hearts, because the people give and help it to be true Father that some day we can say you've given too much.  Too much, it's enough.  Free us Father from covetousness to invest with Thee knowing at the same time that You've promised to return to us more than we ever gave.  Thank You for this time and for Your promises.  In Christ's name, Amen.