It always does seem strange that Christians need to be encouraged or even coerced into giving their tithes and offerings yet the book of Malachi 3 talks of God looking at our failing in this obligation as robbing Him. In all this however, is the greatest tragedy of all- that we tend to compare ourselves with others thinking that they are the rich and blessed ones who should give tithes and offerings. But someone once said that if we take the time to count our blessings, we would be surprised at how blessed we really are.
We are all blessed in many, varied and wonderful ways but we struggle to share what we have with our neighbors or those less fortunate than ourselves. We even find it difficult to bring in our tithes and offerings to the house of the Lord. This is because we are unaware of the blessings that accompany genuine giving and therefore miss out on what God has for us.
In 2Corinthians 8, Paul shares with the Corinthians, the principles of giving- that we should give generously no matter what our circumstances are. The Corinthians may have been going through issues but Paul informed them that this could not deter their giving and in 8:2-3, he talks of the Macedonian churches, saying, 'Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability' We too need to give in this way because God has greatly blessed us each according to his or her abilities and in the same way we should give.
We should also give voluntarily, joyfully and willingly and not feel as though we were under compulsion to do so. Further more, our giving should be sacrificial because it has to cost us something; this is not the kind of giving whereby we give out things that we no longer need and think that we have done something great! Finally, we should be accountable for what we give. This means that we should be interested in knowing exactly what our giving is doing and ensure that it is doing the work of God and not some dubious activities.
When giving is right, blessings will naturally follow. Giving the right way attracts blessings that go far beyond us. These blessings will come in three ways: to others, to ourselves and to God.
Others:-When we give to others, they become encouraged and are provoked to share the gifts that they themselves may have been hiding. And through our own testimonies, others will be inspired. But this kind of giving is the one without any strings attached, one which expects nothing in return and which therefore reveals God's grace. Again the faith of others is strengthened when they see us giving to them or to many others. And faith pleases God; Hebrews 11:6 expounds, 'And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who earnestly seek Him'.
When we open our pockets to give, we meet the needs of others thereby prompting them to thanksgiving and praising the name of God. When we give to church, we support ministries and lead people to praising God for the good that they find in churches: the instruments of worship, the gifts for the needy and even the seats! Nations are impacted through missions that are supported by generous giving. But most importantly, joy accompanies giving both for the giver and the given. And it greatly pleases God.
Ourselves:-We are blessed when we give. Luke 6:38 explains how, 'Give and it will be given to you. A 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'. Scriptures remind us that if we give, it shall be given to us. Yet God's measure may not come in the same form in which we released our own giving but He will surely compensate us in many other ways; through promotions at work, provisions that ensure we are never in lack, good health, intelligence and obedient children are but some of the few ways in which God blesses us. Proverbs 11:24 warns against refusing to give, 'One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty'.
If we have no faith to give, we surely become poorer. However, in order to increase there are certain principles that we must remember; firstly that we will only reap much if we sow much 2 Corinthians 9:6 tells us, 'Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly, will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously'. We may feel as if we do not have enough to go round, yet, the Lord promises that if we generously share what we have, we will not be lacking in anything. Paul noted this aspect of God's character of abundant provision in Philippians 4:19 'And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus'. We are responsible for how much blessing we get from God! Proverbs 22:9 encourages us further, 'A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor'.
Secondly, we reap according to our motives just as a farmer harvests according to his seriousness. Is it something that comes from within us or are we just doing it to show-off? As Christians we should be motivated by love which comes from the heart. This is the kind that pleases God for it is genuine. 2Corinthians 9:7 explains, 'Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver'. Which category of givers do we then fall under? Are we the sad givers who do so grudgingly just to keep from being disturbed further or are we the mad givers who do it out of necessity and obligation? Are we maybe the bribe givers who entice God with our giving hoping that He will pay us back tenfold? We can all give something according to our abilities. We each have something to give but it must be given with the right motive.
Thirdly, the principle of immediacy will apply to us- that the believer who rightly gives begins to reap immediately and the blessings therein continue into the future. God's unlimited and unmerited favor or grace will be our portion even as we share in His righteousness. God will deliver us from ourselves and from the things He has given to us so that we may not be enslaved by them. He will bless us even more so that we may give others more. 2Corinthians 9:11 confirms, 'You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion and through us, your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God'. Malachi 3:10-11 also talks of the blessings that come with our giving, 'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this", says the Lord Almighty, " and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it'. Further into these verses, the Lord also promises to rebuke the devourer on our behalf.
God:-Giving blesses and glorifies God such that when we give, we cause people to praise Him and as a result He is pleased. 2Corinthians 9:12-13 explains this, 'This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the Gospel of Christ and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else'.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ must be shared, but it must also be lived. It is said that we are all the Bible some people will ever read and therefore our actions must exemplify this faith that we profess. Because one day we will be accountable for all that we have done here on earth and so we must excel in all Chris-like things. 2Corinthians 8:7 educates us, 'But just as you excel in everything- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in love for us, see that you also excel in the grace of giving'.
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May these words (sermons), from various men and women of God be a blessing to all.