Giving and All That Goes With It

The Green, The Gray and The Gold

God doesn't need anything from us. He doesn't need our money, but is always concerned with our best interests, and wants to speak wisdom into our lives. We are told to handle money in either of two ways: the world's way or God's way. The world's wisdom will ultimately lead to frustration, stress, and guilt, while following God's wisdom will provide freedom, peace, joy, contentment, and hope.

Todd WagnerMay 4, 2003

In This Series (3)
A Biblical Perspective on Possessions, Rewards and Eternity
Todd WagnerMay 11, 2003
Giving and All That Goes With It
Todd WagnerMay 4, 2003
A Biblical Perspective on Money
Todd WagnerApr 27, 2003

You know what's so great is that when you understand what I'm about to teach on today, when you understand what this series is about (The Green, the Gray, and the Gold), you will understand that churches don't need offering linebackers for people to participate the way the Lord wants them to.

In fact, you'll find out that any church that has an offering linebacker or manipulative pastors or manipulative faith fundraising campaigns or manipulative stewardship campaigns are churches that are encouraging people to participate in this gray area, "How much should I give?" in a way that God doesn't want them to.

What I'm going to make a case for today, and what you need to understand about what we're talking about, is the Bible is always concerned with your best interests. God is not here with you to get from you something he needs. God, from beginning to end, is about providing for us what we lack.

In this one area where he knows that our attitudes toward money are inseparably connected to our spiritual condition, which is inseparably connected to our quality of life, he wants to inform us and speak wisdom into our world. So this morning you might be thinking, "What in the world? Here I go. I'm at church, and they're talking about money. If I wanted to hear some pastor talk about money, I could've stayed home and watched TBN."

I want you to know that you are here this morning because God loves you and he wants to instruct you and bring light into darkness and give you hope and give you life where you have been clinging to something that will only bring the opposite of life. This is not about what you need to do for the church this morning. It's about what Jesus Christ has done for you.

We're going to answer this question. It's the gray where money is concerned. How much of your money does he want? You know, if I could be sued for anything over this last three years as a pastor. If somebody was going to sue me for pastoral malpractice, you could sue me for my silence on this one area because I have been dangerously close to negligent, if not negligent, in lovingly walking us through this area.

We have avoided it not because we're embarrassed by giving. We have avoided it not because we think that if we teach on this, folks will leave. In fact, when they start teaching about money, many people apologize for that. Now you think about how ridiculous that is. When God is giving light and instruction in an area, the church never apologizes.

When we talk about sexual purity and morality, we don't sit there and say, "Look, you might be a guest here today who's involved in an immoral relationship, and we want you to know our pastor doesn't often teach on adultery. So if you are uncomfortable with the message this week, it's really only for believers, and if you'll come next week you'll feel much more comfortable." There's no disclaimer in the Watermark News.

If I'm going to say, "Let's talk about releasing resentment," that says, "We realize that some folks who are here today who are committed to having bitterness in a relationship and refuse to let go and are harboring resentment towards another. If you need ear plugs, they can be issued to you, and if you'll come back next week, we'll promise not to make you quite so uncomfortable."

No, we believe that instruction in those areas, as in all areas from God's Word, is an opportunity to bless people, and so it is with money. When we talk about money, we're not going to be embarrassed about what we're going to say. We think what we have to say this morning is useful to those who are far from God and those who know him.

Now the applications are different, but the usefulness of what we talked about sticks and resounds. Our purpose is to call all people to be fully devoted followers of Christ. If there is not an increasing devotion in every area of our lives, including the issue and area of stewardship, then we are not fulfilling our purpose.

We say we're in the business of changed lives. If your life has been changed, but your view of dollars has not changed, then your life has not changed all the ways that it should. We're going to talk about this topic today without manipulation and guilt, without having somebody breathing down your neck saying, "The pain train is coming if you don't do what you should do."

We are going to speak to you where God is going to say, "There are consequences in this area like in all areas when you decide to live in an unbiblical way." Now let me just lay it out for you. There are two different ways that you are sold that you should handle money. There are the world's way and God's way. I want to just spell them out for you.

First of all, how does the world say that you should prioritize the green, money that you've earned? I'm going to tell you. This is exactly, the very first song we sang, that Shania Twain song "Ka-Ching!" It talks about how we worship at the altar of materialism and getting more for ourselves.

The very first thing the world will tell you that you should do with your money is enjoy it. You got money the old-fashioned way. You earned it or you won the lottery or were born into a family where you inherited it, so you should enjoy it. It is yours. They will even tell you to over enjoy what you have earned and thus experience debt. In other words, they say, "You worked hard for it. Enjoy it.

Enjoy not just what you've earned today, but mortgage what you're going to make tomorrow so you can enjoy yourself today. Don't wait until tomorrow to enjoy yourself. Enjoy yourself today." The world tells you that it's all about how to feather your bed and make yourself more comfortable.

The second thing the world will tell you to do with your money once you've enjoyed it is repay what you have over-enjoyed. You have to do that lest that little piece of plastic is taken away from you and you are restricted. You have to work on a cash system and you don't have the freedom to continue to spend the way that you want to spend.

You have to be creative in the way that you move your money from one credit card to another or consolidate your payments or you have to take a second mortgage on your home. But do whatever you need to do in order to make sure that you're paying enough on your debt that you can continue to enjoy what you've over-enjoyed so that you don't lose the freedom to enjoy the game.

Thirdly, it will tell you then, if you have some leftover after you enjoyed it all you want for that day, you've repaid what you've over enjoyed, then save a little bit so that your future needs and wants, once you have come out of debt, are there for you to enjoy one more time. Save a little bit so that tomorrow you can continue to enjoy when your opportunity to earn isn't as great. So make sure you can enjoy tomorrow the way you're enjoying today.

The last thing they'll tell you to do is, if there's still something left, maybe consider giving a little bit. Now let me just walk you through what this system will do to you. The very first thing it will do is it will bring you happiness. Now I didn't put it up there, but it should be understood. It brings you fleeting happiness. The word happiness is chosen there instead of another word because happiness has its root in the idea of happenings, which is to say circumstances.

When you spend money, get new things, get a new car, get a nice house, get another nice house, or wear new clothes, everything is great and you like yourself and you're enjoying the vacation, but then it's fleeting because there's a ding. That new car smell is gone. The shirt doesn't fit as good as it did once you wash it. Fashions change. The neighborhood changes.

You have to find something else that will provide for you the happiness in that happening, in the circumstance, that you've wanted. There is fleeting happiness in this methodology. That's part of the deceptiveness of it. The deceitfulness of riches is deceitful because it looks like it's always going to satisfy, only to make us thirsty one more time again.

What happens after that happiness is fleeting and gone, that which you've extended yourself to get that happiness is not and so you are introduced to stress. Someone came up to me after the first service here together and they were talking about a friend who has a degree in psychology who looked for a counseling job here in town and could not get one anywhere except at a credit counseling bureau.

They said their friend can't even balance a checkbook, but they hired her at this credit counseling agency because she knew how to walk people who struggled with suicide through that moment. It shocked her friend, who had been raised up in an environment where they had learned to biblical understanding of money, the green, the gray, and the gold.

They did not live in a way that they lived for fleeting happiness in the terms of material things and using the green for their own enjoyment, and they didn't get into a lot of debt, so they couldn't understand the world of debt. I know many of you can. They asked their friend, "So what do you do?"

She said, "I am the only one there who really knows how to walk people through that kind of despair so all of the phone calls with people who are struggling with depression or suicide are directed toward me." They go, "How many calls do you get?" She said, "I'm there eight hours a day, and I'm never bored."

The stress that comes through the world's system of dealing with the green, God wants you to escape from. Not only is the stress there, but a frustration, a sense of constant frustration. This is what Solomon wrote. Solomon, as you know, was blessed by God greatly for the choices that he made, the decisions that he made about his priorities in life. He was given the opportunity to have a lot of green.

This is what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, chapter 5. He says, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity." It's frustrating. "Because I sought to have my love satisfied in this, I had all the money in the world, and I'm still not content. I've worked my whole life for this only to get there and, frankly, find it's fleeting."

He says, "When good things increase, those who consume them increase." When you sign your first round bonus, the posse increases to come and consume it. He says, "So what is the advantage…""It's frustrating to have worked my whole life to have this kind of wealth, fame, success only to see that there's something still wanting here."

Ben Franklin, when he was a boy, was given a number of pennies from his friends for his birthday. He went and bought a whistle. He took that whistle home, and he was blowing it incessantly. It brought trouble into his home, and they didn't like it. His older brothers and sisters and his mother and father decided to speak truth to him and said, "Ben, you overpaid four times as much for that whistle as it was worth. You were duped."

Ben Franklin took that little moment as a 7-year-old, and he remembered that all his life. It curbed in him a desire to spend foolishly because he saw the frustration that comes when you take all that you have to buy a whistle. He observed the action of men later in their lives. He would often talk to them and he say, "That individual is paying too much for the whistle."

How many of us have done that? We've paid too much for the whistle. We shell out all this money to get something and we blow on it all day long only to find out that there's a sense of frustration because there's not much joy there and there's frustration all around us. He said most of life's miseries are caused by a false estimate in the value of things. Sounds like Solomon. Franklin was not a follower of Christ, but he knew the futility of the world's system of money.

The last thing that the world's system will do is that it will bring about guilt. There's this sense in us that while we continue to over-enjoy it, overindulge, that we go, "You know what? Something isn't right here that all I do is entertain myself with a new trinket, a new hobby, a new game, a new interest, or a new vacation, a bigger and better something when I know that there are people who struggle to provide for the simplest things for their families. Something is a little out of whack."

There's a sense of guilt and almost a forebodingness especially about the grave where we realize our money can't deliver us there and there might even be, not only a lack of deliverance from the money, but maybe be an accounting for the money that we, frankly, don't want to go there. Now look, God doesn't want you to experience fleeting happiness. He doesn't want you to experience stress. He doesn't want you to experience frustration and he doesn't want you to be wracked with guilt. That is why I'm teaching on this today.

Now very quickly, I want to just tell you that the Bible tells you that your enemy, Satan, is the Father of Lies and that lying is his native language. He has come to steal, kill, and destroy. He wants to steal your joy, he wants to kill your peace, and he wants to destroy the life that God intended you to have. So he will take this green and he will lead you down a path of despair.

God is not that way. From the very beginning, what the Enemy has done is inverted what God said should be. If you look at Genesis 1 and 2, God has revealed that he is sovereign over the heavens and as a loving, sovereign being, he wants to live in relationship with humankind where he does nothing that is not in their best interests. They would walk with him and be placed in a position of prosperity and provision by him.

He would take care of what is good and what is evil. We need to just simply walk by faith. Male loving female. Female responding to the love of the male. Together they were to rule the world and to manage the animals of the land, the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air. Humankind was to manage the world and not let the world manage them. Man was to serve the woman. The woman was to respond to the leadership of the male who did nothing that was not in her best interests. They were to walk humbly with God. That's Genesis 1 and 2.

In Genesis 3, the Father of Lies, whose native language is lies, comes on the scene. Now guess what happens? If you have God, the world, and animal kingdom, guess what order the Enemy, the native Liar comes up with? You have a serpent. He becomes an instrument through which Satan tells the woman what to do, who tells the man what to do, so they can know the difference between right and wrong, so they can tell God what to do.

It is a complete inversion of Genesis 1. Now, guess what? This Liar who has come to steal and destroy, God comes right back and says, "No, you need to know something. I am going to still be in control, but there's now going to a separation. There is now a wall of iniquity between me and you, male, humankind.

There is also, because of sin in your heart now… The relationship is still going to be there where there's headship and submission, but now because of sin, it's going to be exploited and not a source of blessing, but a source of humiliation to where the woman resents your leadership. The world will be at war with you and will constantly be trying to destroy your seed by leading it astray.

God says, "The relationships are like I said they would be, but now with all kinds of tension." By the grace of God through Jesus Christ, he has come and he has brought healing between humankind and himself. Therefore, as that grace lives in our hearts, there can be a restored relationship between male and female where men in positions of headship and authority don't take their position as a rank.

They take it as a role and they realize their role as a leader is to serve those who are under their care. Men, it is our job to venerate, honor, love, serve, cherish, and value women and allow them to be all that God intended them to be. Not exploit them so that we might run our offense and do what we want to do when we want to do it.

If we did what God asks us to do, you would not have women rebelling against male leadership the way that women have done. They have not rebelled against biblical male leadership. They have rebelled against what you and I would rebel against, which is a tyrant of a dictator of a leader. What should happen in the Christian home is that the man should lead, but he should lead by loving and serving and submitting to the needs of his wife. Period.

She is not there for your sex and there to be your babysitter so you can run your offense and do what you want to do. She is there for you to honor and do nothing out of selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind to consider her as more important than yourself, having in yourself the same attitude which was also in Christ Jesus who is our head and did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.

Now we submit to that Jesus with gladness and so will our wives and women in this culture and this world submit well to us when we do nothing except venerate them and not hold them down. The world has perverted and flipped what God said the order of relationship and authority should be. That's exactly what he has done with money.

The world says, "Enjoy." The world then says, "Service your debt so you can continue to enjoy." The world then says, "Save so you can enjoy in the future." And the world says, "If there's something left, you should give." Guess what that is? It is a complete inversion of what the Scriptures say. Now God is going to come so that the Thief, the Stealer, the Destroyer might set you free from fleeting happiness, stress, frustration, and guilt. Listen. This is how the Lord tells you to prioritize the green.

First of all, give to the Lord from the first of all your produce and give with an eye toward eternity. This is what it says in Proverbs, chapter 3. "Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce…" Do you think of God first? Do you know, as an educated creature, that your Creator is the one who gives you the means through which you might attain wealth?

Do you know that God is the one who sends sunshine and rain to the earth that allows photosynthesis to hit that little chlorophyll and allow that plant to grow so that apple would grow so that you can pick it and eat it and be satisfied for the day. When that first apple is there, you give it gladly back to him for the furtherance of his name because you know that all things come from him. You honor the Lord because the Lord is the source of all that is good.

Secondly, you repay what you have over-enjoyed. You service your debt. You deliver yourself from debt obligation like your life depended on it. Now why do I say that? Because it's for freedom's sake that God has set you free. What God said that you should do is if, for some reason, you have gotten yourself in a position of bondage, once you've honored him, then you make sure that you deliver yourself from that debt obligation as if your life depended on it.

Jesus wants us to be free from the stress and the burden of being a slave to another person. If you look in the Old Testament when God came with his people, he delivered them from slavery in Egypt not so they might be slaves to other nations once they get in their own land, but he says, "Don't go into debt because you will be their slave."

In Proverbs 22:7, Solomon says it this way. "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender's slave." God does not want for you bondage. He wants for you freedom. This is what it says in Proverbs, chapter 6. "My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor, have given a pledge for a stranger…" If, for any reason, you are tied as a cosigner or as a debtor to some loan.

He says, "…if you have been snared with the words of your mouth…" If you've given a pledge and said, "I'll repay that debt." "…do this then, my son, and deliver yourself; since you have come into the hand of your neighbor…" Who you owe money to. "…go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor."

You plead incessantly and say, "I'm going to take care of this immediately because right now, I am your slave." He says, "Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids; deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hunter's hand and like a bird from the hand of the fowler." Question. This is God's call to you in how you use money.

You honor him first and you get yourself out of slavery where you're working for your money and not your money working for you. How does a gazelle run from a hunter? Like his life depended on it. How does a bird get away from a fowler? Like his life depended on it, because it does. That's what God is saying.

"Because I set you free for freedom's sake, so don't become a slave to another person through debt." You say, "No," to that thing you want to enjoy until God has give you the means through which you can enjoy it in the right system and order, but do not take debt in order to get things that will bring you fleeting happiness, stress, frustration, and guilt.

God says, "You get out of debt if you are there." I am so pleased to tell you that in 13 days, on May 17, we're going to have a financial counseling seminar. If you are imprisoned by debt, we understand that loss of freedom and life, that stress and frustration. We will have folks who will talk you through our Good Cents seminar who will help you understand how to start to work out of that decision.

Even if you're not in debt, you want to start to work through what God has given you in terms of the green and to handle that in a way that is glorifying to you in a very practical session, I encourage you highly to make it on May 17 to that. After that, if there are individuals who need personal financial counseling to get out of debt, we provide that for you here free through people in our body whose ministry is to help you be as free as God intended you to be and to begin to work your way out.

I want you to know there are people who are in our body who have worked and are working their way out of tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars of slavery to debt. So don't think your number is too big and we're going to go, "There's a new record!" We're going to say, "Oh, we are so sorry that we have not made it more clear to you earlier that we want to be a part of how God takes you out of what he has freed you to be there from.

The world has brought you to a place where you're feeling what God doesn't want you to experience and you are being in the depths of the one who has come to steal, kill, and destroy and we want to introduce you to life." We're going to tell you with your money, you give first and then you service that debt.

Then thirdly, you provide for yourself and your family. This is what it says in 1 Timothy 5:8. "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." We looked last week at 1 Timothy 6:6-8 where it says in verse 8, "If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content."

You make sure you have food and covering for your family. If you don't have it, we're going to provide it for you here. You give to the Lord first from everything you make, the Scripture says, and then you service that debt to get free. You provide for your family, and then what?

Then, you enjoy it. You enjoy it and if you have money left over after you enjoy it, there is still something left over, you give more. Watch this. This is what he says in 1 Timothy 6:17-19. "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy."

Now let me make this comment. I said in the third one that we are to make sure that we provide for our family. Then I went right to enjoy. Some people might go, "Wait a minute. Where does savings fit in there?" The answer is, it fits in providing for your family, but saving, folks, is something that God is very clear on in the Scripture.

It's fine to be a little bit concerned and think toward tomorrow, but ultimately, anything that we do which would cause us to not trust in God, but instead trust in tomorrow, is trouble. That's what it says. Look back at 1 Timothy 6:17 and 18. It says, "…not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches…" right there in verse 17.

You keep your hope fixed on God. Let me make this comment. Whatever you do, if you do it so that you can fix your hope on the certainty of your very wisely invested Enron stock or the certainty of your retirement plan and you fix your hope on that or the certainty of the Russian ruble and its continued strength, you are fixing your hope on that which is unworthy of your hope.

If you want to save, you save wisely, but never for the purpose of feeling secure in that which you have saved. You save because wisdom would teach you prudence, but not so that you don't have to trust the Lord anymore, because that is a guaranteed disappointment. In fact, if you'll go back and look, what God says about saving is ultimately this. In Exodus 16, when they were in the wilderness and they needed to eat, what God was going to teach them was about constant reliance on him and so he gave them manna.

He said, "Every day, I will give for you in the wilderness what you cannot have. Your daily bread. What you need for the day." "…the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day…" What should they gather? "…a day's portion every day…" Then he goes on to tell them, "What you are given to eat, you should make sure and take only what you should eat."

If you'll flip to verse 16 in Exodus 16, you'll see this. "Gather of it [manna] every man as much as he should eat…" That day. Not that you can eat. Not that you might want to eat later, but what you need for your body to be healthy for you to have what God intended you to have and watch this.

"…you shall take an omer apiece…" That's what you need. "…according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.' The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat. Moses said to them, 'Let no man leave any of it until morning.'"

Meaning, "Don't take more, and just in case the manna doesn't come tomorrow, you have some stuck under your mattress. You trust God to provide for you tomorrow what he provided for you today." In this instance as he was beginning to teach them who he is, he was saying, "Don't you have confidence that you'll live tomorrow because you're faster than the rest of your buddies and you can collect more manna so that tomorrow you don't have to trust God."

"If you do that," he says, "if you leave part of it until morning," in this instance it said, "…it bred worms and became foul…" In other words, taking or keeping more than they should in this instance caused disease and rottenness to come into their home. That is what happens every single time you begin to trust in the uncertainty of riches.

Disease will come in through the love of money, and it will begin to rot everything in your life that is dear and right. What's the Bible say about saving? It says, "If you're going to save, fine, but you'd better not save as a means to stop trusting in God. It is impossible to be trusting and secure because of Christ and be secure because of what the world has given you."

Whatever you do, you make sure your security is in Christ. The Bible says, "You want to store something? You store up sound wisdom. You store up knowledge." It says, "A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous." A good man leaves an inheritance of righteousness. The wicked man, he leaves his money for another generation. That's all he has to leave. No legacy of faithfulness and yieldedness to God.

When you're done providing for your family, and if you save wisely but not trusting in it, you then enjoy it. You trust the God who gives and supplies us with all things to enjoy. Hebrews 13 says, "You want to be excessive? Don't be excessive in enjoying it. You be excessive in doing good and sharing."

Second Corinthians tells us that this is the model. When you enjoy it, then you have the opportunity to grow more in your giving. You should give according to your ability, and even beyond your ability, as the Corinthians did. Galatians 6 says, "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith."

Now listen, why do I tell you this? Why do I tell you that it's a direct inversion of what the world tells you to do? Because God wants you to have the directly opposite experience of what the world says you should have, which is fleeting happiness, stress, frustration, and guilt. Guess what you get when you do it this way? Freedom. You are no man's slave.

Secondly, peace. You don't have wonder if that phone is going to ring, the creditor is going to come, your house is going to be repossessed, your car is going to be repossessed, your credit cards are going to be taken away, or you're going to be embarrassed in public. You will have joy. You will know that whatever your circumstance, that God is there providing for your daily need.

There is no fleeting happiness, but an abiding joy. There is contentment in whatever the circumstance. There is hope that at the grave you will not find judgment, but you will hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Now let me ask you a question. What do you want to live with? Fleeting happiness, frustration, stress, and guilt or freedom, peace, joy, contentment, and hope?

That's why the Bible is not silent about money. I want you to hear me on this. We're teaching on this not because we need something from you. God has been gracious in the way that he has provided for his ministry here. He will continue to be gracious. He will allow us to be gracious as a ministry to other people because our body will be increasingly devoted to understand what to do with that which we have.

Right now, we're not in the middle of needing millions of dollars because there's no facility and no room and no place to buy and build right now. We're looking. I hope next week I can tell you about something. Right now, this is for you. You understand that. So that you might have all of what God has come to give you, which is life abundantly. If you are imprisoned by your use of money, listen.

Now what about the gray area, though? I've tried to establish why God is so passionate about this. The gray area of money. Giving is not how God ultimately measures a man, but it can ultimately be an indication of the direction of your heart, which ultimately determines the quality of your life.

This is what Jesus said. "…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." If your heart is not with the love of God, you will have stress, frustration, guilt, fear, and fleeting happiness. So giving factors in. God knows there is an inseparable connection between our view of money and our spiritual life.

Let me say it this way: between money and our quality of life. It's not the connection that the world always thinks. Three verses later in verse 24, it says, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

He is going to say, "If you have to choose between these two, don't serve your wealth. It doesn't make sense. Serve the One who has come to give you life." The Bible tells you in this gray area about giving. Giving is not ultimately how God measures a man, but it can ultimately be an indication of the direction of your heart.

He tells you then how you give is as important as what you give. There's a reason that we give the way that we do here. Because we don't want, when some bell rings, to have your mouth salivate. We don't, when the plate is passed, to have you digging around so you're not embarrassed to give some money.

We don't want you to give because of some cultural expectation, manipulation, or pressure from us. We want you to give because you understand what has been given to you out of joy; you are ready to give in grace back. We believe that as a premeditated, purposeful act of worship, there's an opportunity for you to give when you come in or when you go out in the boxes that are in the back.

That's why we don't give by passing baskets here. Not because we're embarrassed or because we want to communicate to you that you shouldn't give. You should, as a source of joy to yourself. If we have communicated you shouldn't give or you don't need to give or giving is not important as an act of worship, we need to ask your forgiveness.

The Bible says how you give is as important as what you give. Look at it this way. In Matthew, chapter 6, verse 1. He says, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men…" In other words, giving what you give so that others can see you and you can increase in prominence or power. Don't give that way.

He says, "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet…" So that others hear you. Go, "Look what I'm about to do." He tells you in verse 3, "…do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…" That's one of the reasons we set it up the way that we do, because we know that how you give is as important as what you give.

Watch what it says in 2 Corinthians, chapter 9, in verse 7. "Each one must do just as he has purposed…" Do you see that? How you give is important. "…do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion…" Don't do it because you think you must because Barry Bates, offering linebacker, is going to wipe you out.

Or because if you don't, that God is going to somehow take his hand of blessing off you. God is not some mafia don that if you don't pay him extortion money is going to no longer have that form of protection when the thugs come sweeping through your neighborhood. It doesn't impress him to try and buy his favor.

He doesn't need you to give, and thinking maybe if you give to him, he'll continue to prosper for you so that somehow he'll continue to allow you to live an undiscerning life over here because you give more than anybody else. He is not concerned if you give more than anybody else. He is concerned about the condition of your heart. How you give is as important as what you give, and what you give is very, very important.

Now let me just say it to you this way. God does not condemn wealth. Jesus never condemned wealth. He never commended poverty. He commanded stewardship. Now this is what the Lord says about giving. I'm going to walk you through an Old Testament to a New Testament understanding of giving. You want to know? Here comes the gray area for you.

In Leviticus, chapter 27, verse 30. This is what it says. In God's theocratic system, where he as a Father is beginning to reveal himself to people who did not know him, children of the faith. The Jews are our forefathers, but there was a time when they were children. They didn't know Yahweh. They didn't know Jehovah. They didn't know God anymore than we did, so he is teaching them about whom he is.

He is the author of all things and the one who provides all things. So he says, "Thus all the tithe [tenth] of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S; it is holy to the LORD.""You make sure you give me one-tenth of everything as an acknowledgement that all comes from me. I am your Creator. I am good and you honor me by giving to those which I will put in the office of serving me for you."

It's the Levite tribe. It's one of 12 tribes that Israel had that God set aside for the purpose of being civil servants, of administering that which would allow these people who were far from God to begin to approach him. In order to allow these individuals to minister to the nation with God as the head, as the theocratic ruler, they were to give one-tenth of everything first to God.

Let me just say this. This is what's called the tithe, but the Old Testament child didn't just give 10 percent. In fact, if you look at the Old Testament system of giving, it was closer for a child to 23 percent. Why? Because there were all sorts of giving requirements during the festivals. There were giving requirements for the poor, widows, and orphans. There were giving requirements for guilt offerings and sin offerings and then free will offerings of expressions of love.

Now when we have children, we give them a lot of rules and guidelines because they can't discern. When my kids, right now, want to see if a movie is okay for them to watch, it's just a simple yes or no from me. I have now two older daughters who are able to read and have some level of comprehension of what they read. I'm going to teach them now, not just the moral what that their daddy has decided about movies, but now I'm teaching them the moral why.

So when a friend offers to go to a movie and asks them to come to a movie, I tell them to go to or "You read what that movie is going to suggest as a model to follow, what situations are exalted, and what words are used. Then you tell me if it makes sense for you to go and to meditate on that for two hours.

If you think it is and you're old enough and it fits the system and the way that we think is okay for you as a young child, we're going to begin to let you make mistakes and reap the consequences of those mistakes in our home. Because we don't want you to do what Daddy says, I want you to learn to cultivate a heart and a love relationship with a God who has your best interest in mind. I'm going to teach you the moral why, not a bunch of moral whats."

As a child, there are tons of rules. As they grow up, there are relationships and principles which inform what they should do. Now watch this. Why do I say that? It's the same with giving. As Old Testament children who didn't have very much, God says, "Look, this is it. As you know who I am and understand more of who I am, you're going to give freewill offering to me and you're going to go above and beyond this simple rule. You're going to pursue a love relationship and righteousness, and that's what's going to concern you."

The only time tithing is mentioned in the Gospels, it is mentioned in the context of a rebuke. It's in Matthew 23:23. It's cross-referenced in Luke 11. You can find it there, but it's the same idea. Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees who are tithing on the smallest of things: mint and cumin and dill. What he is saying there is, "Look, you guys are trying to be really exact about the tithe, but you have no relationship of love with me. Do you really think you're buying favor with me with your 10 percent?" He could say, "With your 40 percent?" It doesn't matter.

What Jesus is concerned about is a relationship of love. How much should you give? That's the question of the day. The gray. Okay, I'm going to answer it for you. I answer it this way. Tithing is never mentioned again after that in the New Testament. It is neither commanded nor is it rescinded. My question for you is, "Do you think God, though, expects his New Testament children to give less or more?" Jesus never lowered the spiritual bar. He always raised it.

"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; but I say to you…" "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER'… But I say to you…" He would say, "Children, you have heard it said that this is the law that God says as a minimum, but I say to you…" He always raised the bar. He never lowered it.

What I'm going to suggest to you is that God gives rules, and 10 percent is the rule for children. He expects you to grow to the place that a tithe is irrelevant. That's why, to New Testament sons and daughters who have matured in Christ and understand the love of their Father who has given everything for them, there's no longer a need for guidelines and rules.

When you begin to learn to ride your bike, there are training wheels. You use those training wheels until you learn to ride, but once you learn to ride that bike, those training wheels are irrelevant. I'm suggesting to you that a tithe is irrelevant, and that's why it's not mentioned in the New Testament. It's a great place to start, but it's just simply that.

The question becomes not, "How much do I have to give God?" Whenever I do a Q&A with high school kids, they always want to talk about sex and, "How far is too far?" When I do a Q&A with adults, they want to talk about money. "How far is far enough? How far do I have to give until God is satisfied?" Do you know what the answer is?

The answer is, "It doesn't matter if you're keeping 90 percent of the money for yourself or 50 percent or 10 percent of your income for yourself. The point is it's better to have less of your income and live inside of the will of God than it is to have 100 percent and live outside of it." You discern before the Lord what he wants you to do and know this.

For children, he started them at 10 percent. For folks who can't make good decisions based on principles and a relationship of love and don't know the goodness of their Father he said, "The tithe is training wheels. It becomes irrelevant once you know me." Now people say, "When do I start giving?" The answer is, "Right away!" You know? If you come to Christ, and you go, "I robbed six banks last year so this year I think I'll just rob three," that doesn't make much sense.

You begin to be obedient and say, "Lord, I'm going to walk with you, and in this area of my life I'm going to get serious about who you are, and I'm going to let you inform my life in this area." I ask folks sometimes when they tell me they can't afford to tithe, "Would you die if your income was reduced by 10 percent as a minimum?" They tell me, "No." Once you've admitted that, that you can afford to live on less than that, the issue is not that you can't tithe, but that you won't.

Look, I'm not saying it's easy to give. It's not. It gets harder the more you have. In fact there's a guy who came to his pastor one time and said, "Pastor, when I was making $50 a week, it was easy for me to give $5. When I was making $500 a week, it was easy for me to give $50. Now I'm making $5,000 a week and it is hard for me to give $500 a week. I don't know what to do. I need help." He said, "Come here. Let me pray for you. Father, would you allow my friend here to make $50 a week again so he can feel good about his 10 percent?"

See, God doesn't want you to live in guilt. It's better that you make $50 a week and live with peace and joy and contentment. The Proverbs say that. "Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife." If we were Baptists at all, you would've heard about 30, "Amens," there, because we know it's true. Fleeting happiness does not offset frustration, stress, and guilt. God wants you to be free. He wants you to enjoy life as he intended for you to have it.

Let me just tell you some statistics about giving. We have a word that about $10.1 trillion was made in income by believers just a year or two ago. That's such a huge number. Let me tell you how big that number is. Of that, $17 billion was given to Christian causes. That is less than 2 percent. George Barna tells us that in the year 2000 at the very end of the meteor of our stock market in this country, there was a 44 percent increase in those who gave nothing.

Did you hear that? There was a 44 percent increase at the time of our nation's greatest prosperity of those who gave nothing to charitable causes. Why is that? Because people start to think, "Well I'm not going to give my 10 percent, so I'm just not playing the program." Again, 10 percent is just the introductory level, God would say, for babies who don't understand.

A tithe is not biblical. It's not unbiblical. It is just the beginning. There were 33 percent of professing followers of Christ who said that they tithed. But Barna went back and matched those who checked that, with their permission. He checked their income and compared it to what they gave and found out that 17 percent of that 33 percent lied.

The reason we don't give is not because God has not given us some to give with but because we don't believe what God has to say about money and we think the Bible is naïve and ignorant on money. I will tell you that is an error that you will pay for with stress and guilt and frustration all of your days and then some. This is not for us. It is for you.

We want nothing from you today except the privilege of speaking into your life the truth that God's Word offers. People say, "What should I do?" With the economy, should I give right now? Some people have said, "I'm going to wait and maybe see if I can give more if I hold on to this money." Do you really think that you're going to get to heaven and God is going to say, "You really blew it when you gave those stocks to me before it really peaked."

How many folks had great plans with what they would do with their Enron stock? The reason you should give today is because the economy may change and we will have less to give. You should give today because our hearts might change and we will be less wiling to give. The deceitfulness of riches, the worries of the world, the concern for many things can come and choke out your obedient heart that would store up for you treasures in heaven.

Or our lives might end before we've intended. To which you say, "That's great. I'm going to set up my estate and my will and such that when I die all my money goes to the church." Well, that's great. What kind of faith does it take to part with your money after you die? The Bible says, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him…" and you're going to forfeit for yourself the opportunity to earn the gold.

We're going to focus on that explicitly next week. I'm going to say this. Death is not your best opportunity to give. It is your last opportunity to give, and that without faith. God rewards acts of faith done while we are living. Let me comment on this. If you are giving now to receive more now, you aren't giving; you are gambling. Let me make this very clear.

The health, wealth, and prosperity gospel that is so unbiblical that is espoused out there dishonors Christ. Any doctrine that is truer in one part of the world than in another is not a true doctrine. It sells in America because we have the opportunity to be rich and we see God as an investment banker.

We tell people, "If you give us 10, God will give you more." We distort Scriptures like Mark 10:29-11 where Jesus says, "Jesus said, 'Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age…'"

Now what's that mean? Does that mean that if you give God $100 you're going to get a 10,000 percent return? Or if you give him one house, you're going to get 100 in return? No, do you know what that means? How many of you would allow my family to come stay with you if the house that I live in today and tonight burned to the ground? Raise your hand.

Well, I'll tell you something. That's over 100 folks without trying. I guarantee you would. There's no way. I don't own your home, but you're going to invite me into it. I'm going to have exactly what I need. Food, shelter, and clothing. I will not go naked. I will not go wanting because I am a part of a community that cares for me, and neither should you.

That's what that verse means. Do you know what's going to also increase besides the fact that a lot of folks are going to care for you? Look what it says. "…he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions…" There's your health, wealth, and prosperity doctrine.

You're going to prosper in persecution. Guess what it says? Don't flip it yet, but it says, "…and in the age to come…" What's going to come in the age to come? I'll tell you what's going to come. Eternal life. Why? Not because you gave, but because your giving indicated that you understood who God was and what he gave for you.

In response to that, you are about advancing his kingdom. Not because you gave do you get eternal life, but because he gave you eternal life do you give. Prosperity theology is built on a half-truth, which is just simply this. God gives you materially, and the reason that we are giving health and wealth, the Scriptures tell us, is not so that we can enjoy it more.

What is it? 2 Corinthians 9. Watch this. This is great stuff. "Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality…" So that you can be… What? More rich? Enjoy it more? What do you think it's going to say?

Let me tell you. This is what God is going to do. This is why God gives you more money. It says "…He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness…" So that you can be generous on every occasion and through your generosity, thanksgiving can be made to God.

Do you want to know why God prospers you more? So you can share more. God prospers you not to raise your standard of living, but to raise your opportunity for giving. Let me say it this way. When God provides more money, we often think it's a blessing. That's rightly so. It is a blessing, but it could also be just as scriptural to think of it as a test.

I need to tell you something, man. The more you have, the harder it is to give. Because you're like, "Wow, I can see God when I was making $9,000 a year, giving to $1,000 seemed like a lot." When you're making $50,000 a year, it starts to think, "Gosh do I give $10,000?" I'm making now five times what I used to.

You think, "Should I really trust God? Could I live off of $40,000 when I used to live off of $9,000?" It never stops. That's why when God blesses you with more, you should say, "You know what? God hasn't blessed me so I can raise my standard of living. I want to first think, 'Has God raised me so that I can raise my standard of giving?'"

I'm going to close with this. If you don't know God as he has revealed himself in the Scriptures, then give him a look before you give from your pocketbook. Let me just say it this way. Let me tell you why you should give. Not begrudgingly or under compulsion, but purposefully. Understand your God. He doesn't need a dime from any one of us to do what he wants to do for his glory's sake.

Let me say that again. He doesn't need anything from any of us. If we're going to build a church, if it's going to take us $20 million, $30 million to build a property that will allow us to have the impact as a body that we need in this community, he doesn't need any of us to do it. He'll do it, and if we meet here until he comes, fine. If we get smaller and meet another place, fine.

Ours is to be faithful, but yours is to participate in a way that you will never regret given that opportunity. You need to know who the Lord is before you give to the Lord's cause. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. Let me say that one more time. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.

Here's the Scripture. Watch this. John 3:16: "For God so loved the world…" He loved, so what did he do? "…that He gave…" Look what it says in Matthew 11:28. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will…" What? "…I will give you…" Because I love you, "…I will give you rest."

Jeremiah 29:11. Old Testament. God says, "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'" Look at 2 Corinthians 8:9. Here is the answer to the question, "How much should I give?" Answer: no more than Christ. No more than Christ.

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…" The giving example of our Lord Jesus Christ. "…that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor…" He gave everything. "…so that you through His poverty might become rich." There's your example, child of God. Don't give any more than Christ, and you sort it out from below there.

You're his servant, and he wants his servant to live and live well and enjoy living. You know when you cross the line, though, of being a faithful servant and a servant who is embezzling from the Master's work. He wants you to get you a hotel on the trip. He wants you to get some food on your trip. He wants you to have your rental car on your trip, but does he want you always to get in a Rolls-Royce or a limo as your rental car?

Does he want you always to stay at the Ritz or is there another place for you to stay as his servant? Does he always want you eating out at a five-star restaurant? When you have an employee who starts to use the employer's money on business trips in a way that's extravagant… Even that on his own, taking that and using that card? He is guilty of embezzlement. You work through that on your own.

There's a great story of a guy who was in a neighborhood. He had just been given a car by his brother as an early Christmas present. It was a really nice car. As he walked out of the building that he was in, there was a young man from a poor neighborhood who was nearby walking around his new shiny car and admiring it.

The kid said, "Is this your car, Mister?" The guy nodded and said, "Yeah, my brother gave it to me for Christmas." The boy was just astounded. "You mean your brother gave it to you and it didn't cost you anything? I wish!" He stopped right there and the guy thought, "I know exactly what he is going to say." Then when the guy said what he said, the poor boy finished his sentence and just shocked the guy who owned that new car.

He said, "I wish that I could be a brother like that. I wish I could be a brother like that." The young man looked at the boy in astonishment and impulsively added, "Would you like a ride in my car?" He said, "I would love a ride in your car!" After a short ride, the poor young man turned to this guy who had received the car with his eye aglow and he said, "Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?"

The guy smiled. He thought he knew what the lad wanted. He wanted to show his neighbors that he could ride home in a big new shiny, fancy automobile, but he was wrong again. "Would you stop right here?" he said to the owner of the new car. "Right where those steps are." The little boy ran up the steps, and in a little while the guy came back, and he was not coming fast.

He was carrying his little polio-crippled brother. He sat down on the bottom step and sort of squeezed up right against him and pointed to the car and said, "There she is, buddy! Look at her! I told you about that car upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas and it didn't cost him a cent. Someday, I'm going to give you one just like it. Then you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I've been trying to tell you about."

So you want to know how much you should give? You want to give as much as you can give because if you love not your brother but your Father, your Savior, and your friend, you go, "I wish I could give like that." Nothing is stopping you except the distorted view of the world that tells you to enjoy and to enjoy more and to suppress that panging truth inside you that says, "You are a steward." You are not condemned for being rich or commended for being poor. You are commanded to be a steward. He who has been forgiven much, forgives much. He who has been given much, gives much.

Father, we want to pray that you take these words today and you allow our hearts to grow and that we would give as you would lead us purposefully. That we would take the principles that you have given Old Testament children and we would grow up with them. That because of our great love for you that we wouldn't have to just say, "I wish I could give you a car like that." We can give. We can do whatever we want to do.

Father, it's better to live on less in your will than to live on all that we're given out of your will. I pray that you would make that a reality to this body. That you would bless people here, not so that they could up their standard of living but so they could up their standard of giving so they could up their joy, their contentment, their hope, their freedom even as you intended. Father, we thank you that you're the perfect example, that you have come to give your life, and that is why we praise you. In Christ's name, amen.

About 'The Green, The Gray and The Gold'

It's clear that money and giving are important, but it's also easy to become jaded about the way churches often speak about finances. In "The Green, the Gray and the Gold" sermon series, Todd takes on the myths, misconceptions and musts of a true biblical perspective toward money and all that goes with it. You'll see that ultimately our attitude about money and material possessions is inseparable from our spiritual condition, and our spiritual condition is inseparable from true joy in life.