By Rick L. Wyser
I believe that in order for the church to be successful she must define her purpose and then put them in order of priorities. The question must be asked, “What is the highest priority?” I believe that the highest priority of the church, the first purpose, is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. That through this gospel the Spirit of God may awaken in the hearts of people a holy urge to become true disciples and, accepting the consequences of this discipleship, to live in the service of the Lord today and forever.
I have known many people who have given no consideration whatever to what it means to be a follower of Christ. The disappointing result is that they miss the joy and purpose of Christian discipleship. To judge by their witness both within and without the church you would think that God was dead or at best He is optional.
There is an ever-present danger for any individual to grow up in the church in the false security of a borrowed faith. We pay our respects to God because our parents did or someone else that we respect did. We do so because it is the decent thing to do. We place our tithe and offering in the plate with less appreciation for what God has done for us than the bellman who carries our luggage up to our hotel room. The trouble with borrowed faith is that it creates more problems than it overcomes. Surely it is not the faith Paul spoke of when he proclaimed that through faith in the Lord we can “do all things.” The longer I am in the ministry of the Lord and the church the more convinced I am that too many people are trying to cope with sin and all the problems and sorrow and suffering that it creates with a second-hand faith. A faith based on hearsay rather than personal experience. Paul, in our text, deals with this basic principal of faith, “every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.” Paul mentions no exceptions, “everyone”—certainly it is wonderful to be blessed with a mother and father that serve God, to know that when they stand before God that they will hear well done. But regardless of well they lived their lives, or anyone else for that matter, they will be in no position to answer for us. As Paul tells us, “it is everyone for themselves.
We need to ponder this because until we can say for ourselves, “I know whom I have believed, I know that I have passed from death to life, I know that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation” we are not right with God.
The church is greatly concerned that you come face to face with the Lord in His gospel. What the eyes of the first apostles saw you must see too. You must see Jesus Christ high and lifted up. You must experience salvation for yourself. This is the greatest moment in human experience. When we become aware of the love of God for us our entire attitude toward the church is changed. We don’t mind the things we are called upon to do. We do not shrink from our responsibilities toward the church. But we go on our knees to pray and search the scriptures for God’s will in our lives and the strength to do His will. No longer so we live by the spirit of the world, which has gone crazy insisting that man has the right to do as he pleases. As Paul says, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me, for me to live is Christ.”
To be a disciple of Jesus includes the total commitment of all of life to His lordship. This includes our intellect, our emotion, our body, our possessions and our will. It is quite apparent then that to be a follower of the Lord involves more than just mental assent to the probable existence of a God. We must dedicate all we are and possess to His lordship. How many are willing to shout hallelujah in their agreement of the love of God for them but they will frown when the same Bible declares that God’s love is bestowed upon us that through forgiveness in Christ we might be His own to serve Him! How many will sing, “I will bless the Lord, for He has done great things,: but when the minister says now we will read from one of the portions (and there are many) that states that our possessions belong to the Lord and that we are to invest the first fruits of all that we have (at least a tenth) they wring their hands in anger and disgust.
The difficulty is that we want to enjoy all of God’s blessing on earth and in heaven too but we selfishly seek to shirk any responsibility, which our redemption involves. But such attempts are of the devil and therefore utterly futile. The gospel story is that Jesus died for our sins in order that we might be His own to live for Him and serve Him and proclaim His kingdom until He comes.
I.) WHAT IS YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARD THE CHURCH?
The attitude that you have toward the church is very important in this life. Paul concerning our attitude toward the church, “Despise ye the church of God,” asks one of the arresting questions asked in the Bible? Paul asks this question in connection with the Lord’s Supper. The question goes beyond the supper. It can be applied to all ways we relate to the church. It can particularly true about finance.
I am going to say something that might sound foolish God does not want your money. That might sound foolish but God does not want your money.
During our childhood we all became aquatinted with a young man of rime. This fellow was on his way to a fair when he came upon a vender
Selling the most attractive pies. Simple Simon was delighted with the display and wanted to see more of the wares of the pie man. Now I’ve forgotten most of the details of this nursery rhyme but I do remember this, the pie man’s reply was, “Show me first your Penney.” It wasn’t enough that Simon that Simon was enticed by the aroma of freshly baked pies, nor were the cravings of his stomach strong enough to earn him a pie. The baker was wise to the fact that wishing long enough and strong enough would not make it. If Simon wanted pie let him produce the money.
There in another man not of nursery rhyme who also asked to see a coin. He was surrounded by a group of men who were deliberately attempting to trick or trap Him. One of them ventured the question: “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar?” And the unasked question was, “Or does God want the Money?”
Now Jesus was in a position between two factions. If He said simply, “pay your taxes like good citizens” then the whole Jewish nation would reply that He was a traitor. If He said, “no God is your king, bring all your money to Him” then He would have been seized by the Romans as a rebel. The words of Jesus were well chosen and powerful. He asked for a coin. Showing the image on the coin he said, “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” He dismissed quickly the questions of taxes or tribute to Caesar but He raised a whole new question when He said, Render Unto God….” What things are God’s? And it is when we fail the things that are God’s that we despise the church of God. For God does not want our money he wants all that is His. We can despise his church; under value it, disparage it, pervert it, neglect it. Can you imagine that I am talking about the church? The only institution that has ever been founded by the Lord. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The church has endured. “Oh where are those empires now, of those that went and came? But Lord, Thy church is praying yet a thousand years the same.”
How can we despise the church?
1. By not attending the services. We should attend the church. The Bible says, “Not forsaking the assembling of our selves together”
2. By not making preparation for worship. We say the preacher should prepare and rightly so, but so should the people. There is all the difference in the world in congregations. Some prepare for worship and are warm. Some don’t and they are cold. Jesus said, “We should take heed what we hear and how we hear.”
3. By our lax beliefs.
4. By wrong and inconsistent lives. When you as a member of the church go out and live beneath the standard of the church then the banner of the church droops.
5. By unworthy giving in its support.
What is your attitude toward money?
The vain man says get gold and wear it. The miser says get gold and hoard it. The usurer says get gold and lend it. The prodigal says get gold and waste it. The spendthrift says get gold and spend it. The thrifty says get gold and save it. The wise man says get gold and use it. And how it is used it what God is concerned about.
II.) WE SHOULD GIVE.
We often hear this statement, “I wish that the pastor would stop preaching on giving and get back to preaching the Gospel.” I want to tell you that it is impossible to preach the Gospel without preaching on giving. The Gospel is giving–“God so loved the world that He gave.” The glorious Christian message is, “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” Jesus said to His followers, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Many people love to hear a sermon on the grace of God, the glories of the Christian life, the joys of heaven. But the Bible says more about giving than it does about these subjects. The preaching of any pastor is lacking if it does not contain the clear note of the gospel of giving.
Receiving without giving does harm to a person. The Dead Sea illustrates this, which is dead, because it has no outlet only inlet. It only receives it does not give.
I looked upon a sea and lo `twas dead
Although by Hermon’s snow and Jordan fed.
How came a fate so dire? The tales soon told.
All that it got it kept and fast did hold.
All tributary streams found there their grave
Because this sea received but never gave.
0 Lord help me my best myself to give
That I may others bless and like them live.
I looked upon a sea `twas bright and blue.
Around its shore were life and verdant hue.
“Twas fed by many rills with fountain source
On Hermon’s snowy peak whence Jordan’s course.
But Galilee’s blue sea lives not alone
Although it gets these streams as all its own.
It lives because it gives its water blue
To other shores: and then it fills anew.
Our best nature dies when we receive all and give nothing. Giving causes a person to grow in grace. God delights when we give. “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver.”
We should give but so often we steadfastly refuse to under any circumstance.
A man was approached about giving $50,000.00 to a certain cause. He said, “I understand why you think I can give the money. I own my own business. I have all the signs of affluence. But there are some things that you don’t know. Did you know that my mother is in an expensive nursing home?” “Well, know we didn’t know that.” Did you know that my son is deeply religious and gone into social work and makes less than the national poverty level?” “Well, no we didn’t know that.” Did you know that my brother died and left a family of five and almost no insurance?” “No we didn’t know that either.” “Well, if I didn’t give any of them a Penney what makes you think I will give it to you?” And sometimes it seems that church people feel that way.
But if a church is to survive it must have money. Money is a medium of exchange. We are not paid in goods we are paid in money instead that we may exchange for goods as we see fit. When we put money in the plate at church we are putting a bit of ourselves in the plate. We can’t g’ and preach everywhere so we are hiring someone else to do it. We are making it possible. Therefore the money we put in the plate represents the work that we want done for the Lord in this world and in this church.
Someone will take the verse, “It is more blessed to give than receive” and say, “well maybe so but receiving is good enough for me.” Let me ask you; is receiving good enough for you? Would you rather be a beggar than a benefactor, a panhandler than a philanthropist, a blight than a blessing, a parasite than a producer, a getter than a giver?
Only a live church needs money. A dead church needs very little money. A father was telling how that when his wife had twins it was so expensive. Every expense was double. But then they died and the father sobbed, “Since then they haven’t cost us a thing. Only living babies cost money. Dead ones don’t cost at all. Only live churches need money. When a church dies there is very little need for money but oh how tragic.
You need to give and in the right way. I want to give you a how to in giving. I want to tell you how to give your money away.
1. Give hilariously, not grudgingly. Paul said that God loves a cheerful (or hilarious) giver.
2. Give purposefully, “every man according as he purposeth in his heart so let him give.”
3. Give proportionately, the size is not as important as the proportion of the income that it represents”As the Lord has prospered.”
4. Give systematically, “so let him give.” We start and stop and then start and stop. It is not right for the church to be treated as a side issue or an afterthought. The church suffers from Nickels and Dimes and Dollars that we throw at it whenever we feel like it. The church deserves more respect and sounder support than it gets from casual, haphazard, now and then giving. To belong to the church and enjoy its benefits, personally and in the community, carries the obligation of regular, systematic giving according to a self-determined plan.
A man was told by his pastor that God should come first in everything including finance. The man replied, “Pastor I have too many bills to pay to tithe.” To this the Pastor said, “yes but God should be first.” “But Pastor,” the man replied, “God is not pressing me.” God may not send bills but God expects us to support His church.
5. Give Prayerfully.
What is the level of your giving? There are several levels. Let’s look at them:
1. The “Tip” level. There are those who give a Dollar or two to the Lord in the same way they tip a waitress or porter. It is just a matter of appreciation for the Lord.
2. The “Entertainment” level. There are those who give only when they come to church. They give just like they give to the theater or the ball game, they give when they go.
3. The “Emotional level” level. There are those who give only when they are emotionally stirred. This may be once or twice a year, according to feelings.
4. The “Promise” level. They promise the Lord they will pay but they don’t.
5. The “Bible” level. There are those who give their tithes and offerings as the Bible teaches.
What is your motive for giving? Again, there are several:
1. The bribe. Perhaps the lowest motive for stewardship is the kind of giving that attempts to bribe the unseen spirits or a fickle God. The worshiper brings his sacrifice and gifts with the hope that the giving of something which is precious to him may induce the unseen spirits, spiritual forces, or God to treat him favorably or to refrain from harming him.
2. The motive of obligation. This motive is prompted by such feeling as David must have had when he cried in Psalm 116:12: “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” This puts stewardship on the basis of a kind of commercial exchange.
3. The motive of sympathy. Today many are moved by the sight of suffering to give. The appeal is that, “if one Dollar could feed your child wouldn’t you want to give it? Well one dollar can feed a starving child for a day.” So we visualize the countless millions starving and we give. There is some merit to this giving.
4. The motive of evangelism. The appeal of world-wide evangelism is a motive that causes many to give.
5. The spiritual self-expression motive. The strongest motive for giving is when born-again Christians give and keep giving simply because it is in keeping with his new nature. Again David said in Psalm 103:1: “Bless the Lord, 0 my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”
Do you know what the purpose of the tithe is? There are two:
1. Remembrance, That God owns all and the tithe is just an acknowledgement of that ownership.
2. Worship, We are saying that God is supreme in my life and I will worship Him with my whole life (including finance).
There are something’s that tithing won’t do:
1. It will not put you in a position to bargain with God.
2. It will not substitute for true Christian character.
3. It will not replace the commitment of your life to God.
But God wants us to tithe; in fact He demands it. But oh the excuses!
“And they all with one consent began to make excuse.” Like the song, “Excuses! Excuses! You hear them every day!” Yes, every day and everywhere. I sometimes think that the church has to receive the award for making and receiving excuses. People very seldom stop to consider what Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” The man who puts his money in fishing tackle loves fishing. The man who puts his money into golf loves golf. The man who puts his money into guns loves guns. The man who puts his money into cars loves cars. It could be houses or whatever but the principal remains the same. And the person who puts a decent, respectable portion of his money into the nail pierced hands of the Lord loves the Lord. The man who never puts money into fishing doesn’t love fishing etc. And the man who doesn’t regularly and faithfully bring a fair portion of his money to the only institution Jesus died for doesn’t care much about Jesus. Now, that is the truth without a doubt but there are so many who don’t bring a portion of their money to the church and oh the excuses.
It’s like asking the question, “Why are fire trucks red?” And receiving an answer like this: “Well, fire trucks have four wheels and eight men, four and eight are twelve. There are twelve inches in a foot. A foot is a ruler. Queen Elizabeth is a ruler and the Queen Elizabeth is the largest ship on the seven seas. Seas have fish. Fish have fins. The Finns fought the Russians. The Russians are reds. Fire trucks are always rushin’. Therefore, fire trucks are always red! If you think this is wild, just listen to some people trying to explain, in the light of the Bible, why they do not tithe.
Some might ask, “Can I be excused from giving.” The answer is, yes, if you believe that:
1. People are not lost in sin and in need of a savior.
2. Jesus made a mistake when He said to His followers: “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
3. The gospel is not the power of God, and cannot save.
4. It is every man for himself in this world, and with Cain, ask: “Am I my brother’s keeper.”
5. You have no desire to share in the final victory of Christ.
6. You are prepared to accept the final judgement of Christ: “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”
Let me ask you, “If the tithe belongs to the Lord as the Bible says it does then:
What right do you and I have to borrow it?
What right do you and I have to steal it?
What right do you and I have to use it?
What right do you and I have to fix interest rates for God?”
God wants us to see where our real interests ought to lie. When a traveler goes to another country the first thing that he does is to change his money into the currency of that land. God knows that we cannot take any of earth’s money with us, but we can change it into heavenly currency by giving our money to God. That is what we do when we tithe and give offerings, we change our earthly currency into heavenly currency. We are laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven.
This truth can be illustrated by the following story. There was a young girl who came to God in a certain church as a result of the faithful life and witness of her aunt. This girl really got in and was a blessing to all that knew her.
After she had been in church only a short time she became critically ill with an infection and all the drugs prescribed on her behalf failed. She died very suddenly. Her death was a terrible shock to her family and to the whole church.
A few days following her funeral the pastor received a letter from the parents. In this letter they wrote that their daughter had a small savings account and that they were closing out her entire account “in favor of the church.” Would the pastor please accept this last gift from their daughter to help the ministry of the church she loved so dearly? The pastor said she loved the church because she loved the Lord.
Yes, this wonderful, young Christian closed her life’s account in favor of the Lord’s church. So may it be said of us that, when our brief stay on earth is done, every moment we have lived, every offering we have given, and every deed we have done will be credited to our account with our Lord. For when we stand before God on that great day, “to which there is no sunset and no dawn,” then it will be required that every one of us will have to give an account of themselves before Almighty God. If we are saved it will be before the judgement seat of Christ and if lost it will be before the White Throne. But we will all give an account to God for our lives. Let us make sure our life’s account is in God’s favor so when we close our life’s account it will be to God’s glory and benefit.
The above article, “Closing the Account” was written by Rick L. Wyser. The article was excerpted from chapter two in Wyser’s book Bible Preaching Resource.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.