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Giving 1-H

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The Gift That Turned Sour

Intro:  I am in the greatest position in the world to preach this sermon because:

q   I don’t know who gives what.  There are some minister friends of mine who insist on knowing.  My choice has been to not know because it gives me greater freedom.  In this message today, I am not “preaching at” anyone. I see no faces in front of me.

q   We really don’t have any screaming needs currently.  Plenty of places to spend money.  Sometimes our need creates a sense of desperation and I do not speak this morning from that perspective.  While there are a multitude of places where we could spend money today, I really do not believe that there are any crises facing us as a church today.

q   It is a spiritual issue.  Until God is Lord of your finances he is not on the throne of your life.

It is possible at times for our worship to be detestable to God.  (Genesis 4:5)  What was the problem with Cain’s offering? It provoked his displeasure rather than his pleasure.  God cannot stand half-heartedness.  I believe that ritual without heart is most likely one of the most damaging things to our relationship with God and I believe that it grieves His heart deeply.

ILL.  Doug Wheaton’s gift to his wife. 4:

q    Was it the nature of the gift?  Probably not because the story predated OT law.  There were no directions given from God that governed the nature of the gift that was brought as an offering.  As far as I know there would have been no direction as to how much to give or any particular directions as to what the gift should be.

q    What do our gifts tell us about ourselves?  The things that we bring to God each week are a personal heart confession.

The habit of giving: "On every Lord's Day each of you should put aside something from what you have earned during the week, and use it for this offering.  The amount depends on how much the Lord has helped you earn" (1 Cor. 16:2 TLB, emphasis mine).

You don't give for God's sake.  You give for your sake.  "The purpose of tithing is to teach you to always put God first in your lives" (Deut. 14:23 TLB).

How does tithing teach you?  Consider the simple act of writing a check for the offering.  First you enter the date.  Already you are reminded that you are a time-bound creature and every possession you have will rust or burn.  Best to give it while you can.

Then you enter the name of the one to whom you are giving the money.  If the bank would cash it, you'd write God.  But they won't, so you write the name of the church or group that has earned your trust.

Next comes the amount.  Ahhh, the moment of truth.  You're more than a person with a checkbook.  You're David, placing a stone in the sling.  You're Peter, one foot on the boat, one foot on the lake.  You're a little boy in a big crowd.  A picnic lunch is all the Teacher needs, but it's all you have. 

What will you do?

Sling the stone?

Take the step?

give the meal?

Careful now, don't move too quickly.  You aren't just entering an amount … you are making a confession.  A confession that God owns it all anyway.  And then the line in the lower left-hand corner on which you write what the check is for.  Hard to know what to put.  It's for light bills and literature.  A little bit of outreach.  A little bit of salary.

Better yet, it's partial payment for what the church has done to help you raise your family … keep your own priorities sorted out … tune you in to his ever-nearness.

Or perhaps, best yet, it's for you.  For though the gift is to God, the benefit is for you.  It's a moment for you to clip yet another strand from the rope of earth so that when he returns you won't be tied up.

    

     From the book "When God Whispers Your Name" by Max Lucado

Why don’t people give?

1.      Greed

2.      Lack of trust in God’s promise to provide our needs.

3.      Not enough left over.  Give God from the best not from the rest.  Many of us regularly go in debt on Christ’s birthday to give to everyone else except him.  It would be a neat thing to give our most expensive gift to God this Christmas.  We would never consider going in debt to give to God on a weekly basis.

q    What do our gifts tell us about our relationship with the person that we give to?  They tell us that we may not really understand the heart of the person that we offer things to..  I remember a young man whose father and mother had split up.  I took him out for coffee as a 15 year old.  He had just been wounded deeply by a gift that his father had given him.  He had gotten some gifts that were for another time – they were some colored pencils and an assortment of other things that would have been great for someone younger – but not for him.  He sat at the table and wept because the gifts told him that his father didn’t know him anymore and didn’t take the time to stay current in his life.

If you are going to give gifts to people then it is wise to know their hearts and then the gifts are more meaningful.

q    Was the problem really with the gift? (Genesis 4:4b)  Most likely it was with the giver.

“The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, [5] but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor”

Our hearts are revealed more by or reactions than our actions. (Genesis 5b)

Cain was both angry and jealous when God did not receive his offering.  He took his anger out on his brother.  There is a psychological defense mechanism called “projection”.  It means that we tend to project on others the faults that we have ourselves.  When we think see impure motives in others we conjure them from what we know of our own hearts were we in a similar situation.  Really our judgements are merely a personal confession.  We declare through them what is in our own heart not what is in the heart of another.

When you speak to people relative to giving the reaction is many times negative.  You have two things happen.  The people who are already giving above and beyond start to rework their budgets to see if they can squeeze a little more out.  The ones who are reserved in their giving start to list all the reasons that they shouldn’t have to give.

Ø      It’s an OT law and therefore we are not obligated.

Ø      They don’t spend that money responsibly and therefore I’m not going to give.

Ø      I give to other causes outside of the church.

Ø      I give my time.

Ø      They talk about money all the time over there.

Ø      We just think that we should leave it all to God and he’ll work it out.

Ø      I’m afraid it may offend people who are new to the church.

Someone has defined an excuse as the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.  Smoke and mirrors is what most of these objections are.  Merely efforts to divert attention from the real issue.

q    How do we receive chastisement?  God expressed his disappointment with Cain’s gift and he was hurt.  There are times when God will inflict pain on us in order to get our attention – just as any good parent will do.

q    Cain’s reaction was merely the revelation of what was already in his heart.  It was most likely this very thing that God saw that made his offering unacceptable in the first place.

q    A repentant heart is evidence of a broken and contrite spirit.  This is pleasing to God.

PS 51:16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart,     O God, you will not despise.

q    A pattern of retaliation is the evidence of a rebellious nature.

If our first response when we are convicted by God or the words of another person is to rush to our own defense then we will miss much of our potential in this world.  Yes, criticism hurts and yes it hurts when God reveals the truth about us but it is so necessary.  God can never deliver us from sin that we will not fully own.

q    The manner in which a person receives correction is crucial to his spiritual survival.

1JN 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. [6] If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. [7] But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

When we break our relationship with God it affects the way that we relate to God’s people and particularly our family.

q    A spiritual deficiency in our lives will bring us into conflict with other Christians.  Two intertwined relationships are described in the 1st and 2nd greatest commandments.

q    Continuing in our rebellion places us at risk when it comes to sin’s dominion over us.  Small sin always leads to greater sin.

q    To obey is the greatest offering that we can give God.  There is no better way to say “I love you.” to Him.

1SA 15:22 But Samuel replied:  “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices     as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and  arrogance like the evil of idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,     he has rejected you as king."

David Livingstone wrote in his journal on one occasion concerning his "selfless" life:

   People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of

   my life in Africa.  Can that be called a sacrifice which is

   simply paying back a small part of the great debt owing to our

   God, which we can never repay?  Is that a sacrifice which brings

   its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of

   doing good, peace of mind and a bright hope of glorious destiny

   hereafter?  Away with the word in such a view and with such a

   thought!  It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a

   privilege.

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