Can I Trust God with My Finances?
Who Owns Your Life?
Can I Trust God with My Pocketbook?
2 Corinthians 9:6-11
For as long as there has been a church on the earth, there have been problems associated with money.  You have to travel no farther than the opening verses of the 5th chapter of Acts to discover that the root of the first fellowship problem the church experienced was related to money. 
A man named Barnabas sold a piece of land, brought the money to give to the church for ministry.  Another couple in the church named Ananias and Sapphira did the same thing, but perhaps motivated by greed or selfishness, they lied about how much the land brought and wound up losing their lives because of it. 
Sometimes the problems are not with the membership, but with the leadership.  Later in the book of Acts we run across a man named Simon the Sorcerer.  He tried to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit so he could use the power of God for selfish reasons.  HE was rebuked by Peter who commanded him to repent of believing the gift of God could be purchased with money. 
It’s no wonder the Bible warns us that the “love of money is the root of all evil”.   It’s also no wonder the lost world shies away from us.  Many believe the church is only after their money and see us as no different from any other organization that calls to solicit from them.  
All of this makes most pastors hesitant to preach on money. Skeptics without and doubters within unite to make preaching on giving difficult even in the best of circumstances.
However, as I told you last week, our church has been going through a difficult time financially. And I am committed to being up-front about that need.  The need is a budget need. 
Some of you are probably wondering why, if the church is having money problems, we can buy a new van and people mover.  The answer is very simple.  We were able to do that through the generous giving of a church member. 
Mrs. Bess Faylor had no heirs and left her estate to the church and it was that gift that allowed us to have the funds to update our transportation needs.  We are blessed to have people serving in committee capacities who looked at all of the needs and the money available and brought those recommendations to the church in business meeting. 
Now I realize that to those who don’t come to business meeting or choose to be uninvolved in the business affairs of the church or those who never ride the bus or have children or grandchildren who ride those vans will think that is unnecessary. 
But as I said last week in regard to those who don’t give much and gripe.  I believe it would probably be best if you don’t know what you’re talking about that you keep your mouth shut also. 
We have been blessed with dividends and designated giving that have allowed us to continue to do the work of the church and continue support of our mission programs and take care of building needs.  But God’s plan for church finance is through tithes and offerings from His people. 
And that is really the subject before us as we think in terms of “Who Owns Your Life.”
So my intention is to lay before your some biblical teaching on giving and trust God’s people to consider the needs, respond to the teaching, pray about their response, and then act according to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
It’s not high pressure or panic-driven. It’s the need, plus the biblical teaching, plus your prayers, followed by your response to the leading of the Spirit. And I am absolutely confident that when we do that, God will provide everything we need to do all He has required of us. 
Now, if I were to ask you to name the major Christian teaching on giving and where it is found,  I would guess many would say tithing is the teaching and Malachi is the location. But you would be mistaken on both counts. The major teaching is called grace-giving and it is found in 2 Corinthians 8-9.
Let’s begin by reviewing the background of those two chapters. The believers in and around Jerusalem were in desperate straits. They had very little money, very little food, and a great deal of fear.
Paul took up their case as his own and traveled among the churches of Turkey and Greece raising money for the poor saints in Jerusalem. The church at Corinth, in a burst of zeal, made a large and generous pledge. For some reason or other, they had never made good on their promise. And now Paul, like any good money-raiser, writes a follow-up letter to urge them to go ahead and make their gift.
Then, for two chapters, he uses every motivational argument in the book. He tries to challenge them by comparing them to the Macedonian churches. He tries to move them by recalling the sacrifice of Jesus. He tries to reassure them of his integrity in handling the funds. He tries to excite them with promises of great blessing from God.
And all in all, it is a magnificent piece of work.  In fact, whenever I read these chapters, I want to pull out my wallet and give some money. That’s why I don’t read them very often!
Finally, he finishes us his plea and in response, they will either give or they won’t. His conscience is entirely clear. The facts are on the table. Like any good speaker, he goes for the stirring conclusion. It is his final appeal for generous giving. It begins in verse 6 of chapter 9 and goes through the end of the chapter.
In this section Paul explains two things: the principle of Christian giving and the results of Christian giving. Today, I want to look at the principle and then next week, we’ll look at the results.
And here’s the thing.  Far too often when preachers preach on giving, people make all kinds of assumption about their motives.  Here’s why I want you to know these things. 
It’s not because you aren’t giving or you aren’t giving enough.  It’s not even because you are robbing God, to use the language of Malachi.  It’s because you are robbing yourself of the blessing of God.  Every child of God has the privilege of receiving what is theirs as His child. 
And I don’t know about your personal financial situation, but I will promise you that every one of us desperately needs the unbelievable things Paul says will happen to those who become generous givers. 
So let’s begin with
1. The Principle
This is the Law of the Harvest. Many of you are familiar with a similar passage in Galatians 6:7, “A man reaps what he sows.” Here is the difference. Galatians 6 is saying, “What you reap is what you sow.” Plant beans and you get beans. Plant corn and you get corn—not watermelon.
This text makes a different point.  It’s not about what you sow, but rather about “how” you sow.  And he says, “How you sow is how you reap.” Sow a little, reap a little; sow a lot, reap a lot.
All farmers know that planting time is an act of faith. You take your seed, put it in the ground and cover it with soil. You can’t see a thing.
One day passes—nothing. Two days pass—nothing. Three days pass—nothing. A week, two weeks—nothing.
To the untrained eye, it seems that all the planting was for nothing. And the farmer may be tempted to think, “I wasted my time. Maybe I shouldn’t have planted as much as I did.” It’s always that way when you sow.
You plant the seed and then you wait. Once the seed is in the ground, it’s too late to change your mind. But if you wait long enough, the harvest comes. And you sure are glad you planted as much as you did.
So it is with giving to the Lord. It seems financially impossible. You’ve got bills to pay, the mortgage, car payments, dental bills, school bills, maternity clothes to buy, child support payments you have to make, the pantry is almost bare, alimony, your youngest daughter needs a new dress, and the poodle needs a pedicure.
It looks impossible. You want to give to the Lord but it seems like throwing seed on the ground. Maybe you should wait. Maybe you can give when you get another raise or when your spouse takes a second job.  After all, the Lord is a whole lot easier to get along with the landlord or the collection agency!
Ah…but then comes the harvest. And the principle comes into play, whether it is a positive harvest or negative.  How you sow is how you reap. If you didn’t scatter very much seed around, you don’t have very much to harvest. If you sowed lots of seed, spread it around with a bountiful, glad heart, what a tremendous harvest you will have.
Now everybody knows it’s wonderful to live on a farm during harvest time. All the work of the year begins to pay off. Back from the fields come the trucks loaded with corn or wheat or cotton or hay. You don’t regret sowing all that seed at harvest time.
That is the great principle: What you give, you end up receiving. The generous man receives blessings from God all out of proportion to his own. God will be no man’s debtor. When you dare to become a generous giver, God himself pays you back.
That is exactly what Jesus meant when He said in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Proverbs 19:17 teaches the same truth in other words:  “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.”
In other words, God Himself will repay you for your generous giving to meet genuine needs.
There are two reasons why we find this teaching hard to accept:
1. Extremist Teaching. You may be familiar with certain well-known television preachers who take this truth and turn it into a sure-fire formula for financial prosperity. “Give a hundred dollars and God will give you back a thousand dollars.” “Name it and claim it and it’s yours.”
That teaching elevates money far above its actual importance and devalues God by turning him into a kind of celestial slot machine. It reduces giving to a purely mathematical formula. Put so much in and get so much out. In the end, it leads to selfish giving instead of grace giving.
Because we don’t want to associate with that teaching, we may shy away from the true teaching of Scripture.
My response to that is simple: I’m not going to let some extremist rob me of what God’s Word really teaches. Why should we let the extremists have all the good verses?
The second reason we find this teaching hard to believe, and maybe the primary reason is
2. Lack of trust in God.
Down deep in their hearts, many Christians fear that God won’t hold up his end of the bargain. They fear that if they begin giving generously, they won’t be able to pay their bills, they’ll go broke, then bankrupt, then be hauled into court where they will lose all their possessions, be left penniless, homeless, and hopeless, roaming the streets dressed in rags with a tin cup in their hands.
So instead of trusting God and giving generously, they just put in enough to maintain their respectability and ease their guilty conscience, but not enough to be obedient to God.  And as a result, when the harvest comes, they miss out on the blessings of God.
But that’s the principle: When you give, you end up receiving.
Then, after laying out the principle, Paul immediately explains how this truth works in the area of Christian giving.
2.  The Explanation
verses 7-9
Verse 7 is all about our part, which is the sowing side, and in it, Paul tells us four things about our giving.
First, it should be personal.
“Let each one give”
Giving is an individual decision between you and the Lord. It doesn’t matter what anyone else gives—how much or how little. You aren’t even to worry about that. Since giving is always personal, you can’t pass this responsibility off on other people.  Just consider the teaching of Scripture and then decide what you’re going to do in response.
Second, it should be deliberate.
“. . .as he has purposed in his heart.”
Notice the word “purposed”.  The word involves intentionality.  This is not a random, arbitrary decision that is made on the fly.  This is deliberate, intentional giving that is guided by the very Spirit of God on a deeply personal level. 
Listen:  No one ever becomes a generous giver by accident. It’s not something you happen into; it’s a choice you make. Giving is like farming: The seed doesn’t plant itself. You’ll never learn to tithe until you decide to start moving in that direction. It doesn’t happen any other way.
Third, it should be free-will.
“Not grudgingly or of necessity”
Here is where so many of us stumble. Too many people give to God but wish they didn’t have to.  Sometimes, they feel like they’ve been arm-twisted or taken advantage of and that is not the reason to give. 
We are not to use sob stories.  We are not to use guilt or compulsion.  Our giving is to be motivated by a heart that is moved by God and sensitive to what He tells us to do or our own free will. 
If your Bible includes cross-referencing, it may list Deuteronomy 15:7-11.  That passage says,
7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.
8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.
9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin.
10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.
11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.
God desires that our giving reflect His heart and attitude.  He doesn’t give grudgingly or reluctantly.  He gives because He loves us and chose to give. 
Maybe you heard about the miserly man who mistakenly dropped $20 into the offering plate when he actually intended to give only $5.
After the service, when he noticed that the twenty was gone from his wallet, he said to his wife, “At least I get credit for giving twenty dollars. “ “No, dear, the Lord knows your heart. You only get credit for giving five dollars,” his wife replied. She’s right, of course.
What you give grudgingly is as if you never gave it at all. Seed planted under pressure from the pulpit will never yield a fruitful harvest.  That’s why he says, “Don’t give reluctantly or of necessity.” 
Finally, Paul says the giving of Christians should be done 
4.  Cheerfully
“God loves a cheerful giver”
The Greek word is hilaros. We get the English word “hilarious” from it. It means “cheerful, glad, or happy.” Here is a great truth: It is not just how much you give, but how you give that matters to God.
And we must keep that in balance.  Keep it in balance. How much you give is important, but how you give—your heart attitude—is also important. If you give but wish you didn’t have to, you have lost the blessing. That’s like paying the birds to come and steal the seed out of the garden.
A few years ago I ran across the following letter written by a church member to his pastor during a stewardship drive. Dr. Charles Allen of the First Methodist Church of Houston says he received the following letter:
Dear Dr. Allen,
In reply to your request to send a check, I wish to inform you that the present condition of my bank account makes it almost impossible.
My shattered financial condition is due to the federal laws, state laws, country laws, corporation laws, mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, and outlaws.
Through these laws, I am compelled to pay a business tax, an amusement tax, head tax, school tax, gas tax, light tax, water tax, sales tax. Even my brains are taxed.
I am required to get a business license, dog license, not to mention a marriage license. I am also required to contribute to every organization or society which the genius of man is capable of bringing to life: women’s relief, unemployment relief, every hospital and charitable institution in the city, including the Red Cross, the black cross, the purple cross, and the double cross.
For my own safety, I am required to carry life insurance, property insurance, liability insurance, burglary insurance, accident insurance, business insurance, earthquake insurance, unemployment insurance, old-age insurance and fire insurance.
I am inspected, expected, disrespected, rejected, dejected, examined, re-examined, informed, reformed, summoned, fined, commanded and compelled until I provide an inexhaustible supply of money for every known need, desire or hope of the human race. Simply because I refuse to donate something or other, I am boycotted, talked about, lied about, held up, held down and robbed until I am ruined.
I can tell you honestly that had not the unexpected happened, I could not enclose this check. The wolf that comes to so many doors nowadays just had pups in the kitchen. I sold them and HERE IS THE MONEY.”
Do whatever you have to do, but learn the secret of generous giving!
Through the course of this message I’ve tried to share with you some sound, scriptural teaching regarding Biblical giving, but now let’s get real practical. 
“So if you give, how do you pay your bills?”  After all, God is a very practical God.  How do I take care of my responsibilities if I’m giving what money I’ve got to the Lord and His church?  Don’t I have to take care of my own needs?”
Verse 8 answers those questions.  So far, we’ve talked about our side of the equation.  We’ve concentrated on the sowing.  But now let’s think about God’s part of the deal. 
Verse 8
So what does that mean?  Let’s start at the end of the verse and work back toward the first. 
God’s promise is that “you will have an abundance for every good work.”
What “good work” is he talking about? In this context, the “good work” is helping other people, giving your money to alleviate suffering, giving to meet physical and spiritual needs.  Or we could call it the “good work of God”.  Whatever God would do and has for us to do and expects us to do is what is addressed by this verse.  
Now since we’ve figured out the “good work” part of the verse, let’s back up a phrase. 
The middle part of the verse says you will “always have all sufficiency in all things”.  Or we could say it like this:  You will have all that you need.  When we decide to do the “good work of God”, He promises to resource us so the job can get done. 
The Greek text uses a word that the Stoic philosophers used to describe a man who is so detached from the world and so self-controlled that he needs nothing at all. He lives by himself and for himself.
Paul picks up that word and applies it to the generous giver and says, “God will make you self-sufficient.”  That means you won’t depend on your circumstances for happiness and you won’t be hooked on to material things as your standard of living.  You don’t have to be guided by the events of your life to determine if you will be obedient to the Lord. 
The self-sufficient Christian is the one who has not directed his life toward amassing things but to alleviating needs. He is independent of circumstances and totally dependent on God.
Now go back to the beginning of the verse and let’s pick up where ti starts: “God is able to make all grace abound to you.”
There we discover the secret to the whole thing.  It is God’s grace. And when you put it all together, you discover God is able to give you what you need so that you can truly be self-sufficient and still have an abundance left over to give to others so you can do what HE instructs you to do.
And it is a very simple principle that God designed to guide our lives.  He supplies the grace.  Through it, we are made self-sufficient and in turn, have enough to share with others.
So how do you turn that verse loose in your own life?  It happens by becoming a generous giver. Let me put it this way: If you truly want to give, God will make it possible. He’ll give you more than enough to give to others. It starts with you. If you truly want to be a generous giver, God will make it possible.
The proof is in verse 9, which is a quotation from Psalm 112.
Who is the righteous man? Answer: The man who scatters his wealth around and gives to the poor. God remembers what that righteous man does. He will not forget your generosity to those in need.
The passage then concludes with
3. The Promise
Verse 10-11
It’s another argument from the farm. God always provides seed for sowing and bread for food. That’s the doctrine of God’s providence. It’s in his nature to care for the planting and also for the harvest. He watches over it from beginning to end, year after year.
Now if God does that for the farmer, don’t you think he will do the same for you? He will, and verse 10 says so very plainly.
  • He will supply and multiply your seed for sowing. That’s the money you give to the Lord.
  • He will increase your harvest of righteousness. That’s the blessing that comes to you which you can share with others. When you give, you set in motion a great cycle of God’s grace.
God meets your needs and an abundance comes back to you which you then share with others. The harvest is not for you alone. It’s to be shared with many other people.
Verse 11 says the same thing in different words.
Verse 11
You will be supplied in every way (financially, emotionally, spiritually) so that you can be generous with others.  That means God will give you more so you can share with others. The end result is: Many people will give thanks to God.
Think of it this way. When you give generously, three wonderful things happen:
  • The one who receives the gift is blessed because his need is met.
  • The one who gives is blessed with an increased harvest of blessing from God.
  • God himself is glorified as the giver and the receiver together give thanks to Him.
I want you to think about what I’m about to say.  It comes from years of observation and serving as a pastor. 
No one is more frustrated than the Christian who cannot trust God with his finances.
No one is happier than the Christian who trusts God enough to give his money away.
Somewhere I read about a man who wanted to buy a Rolls Royce. He found a salesman and asked him about the total horsepower of the engine. The salesman did not know, so he asked his manager.
The manager did not know, so he asked the owner of the dealership. The owner did not know, so he cabled the home office in England with the question.
In a few days, back came the answer. It was just one word: “Adequate.”
No one has ever measured God’s grace to those who give generously, but rest assured, it is adequate. It is far more than you’ll ever need.
Let me leave you with a challenge today. I want every person here to go home and think about what I have just said to you. Open your Bible to this text and think it through for yourself. Then I want you to evaluate your own giving.
What kind of sowing have you been doing? A little? A lot? Hardly any? What kind of harvest are you expecting?  A lot of people are frustrated because God never comes through for them.  Maybe it has to do with the amount of seed you’re sowing. 
And I want to challenge you to put God to the test and see whether or not He’s a liar.  Either He will meet your needs or He won’t.  It’s easy to put Him to the test. In fact, He invites us to do it.  Take him up on his Word.
When you do, I predict two things will happen:
  1. You will have blessings overflowing in your life, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.
2. You will have more opportunities to give than you’ve ever had before and you’ll have the abundance you need to give more than you’ve ever given before.
It’s true. God says so in his Word. But you don’t have to take my word for you. God invites you to put him to the test. See if he won’t come through for you.
Can you trust God with your pocketbook? Yes, you can. But you’ll never know until you make the decision in your own heart.
After all, if you can trust Him with your eternity, you can trust Him with your finances.  If you’ve never trusted Him with either, we’ve love to talk with you more about how you can enter into a faith relationship with Him. 
Let’s pray.
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