Worthy Is The Lamb: Worship and Money, Part Two (Get ready for some geekdom)
Okay, we are going there.
Read this with a very engaged imagination.
A few years ago, the three novels of the Ring saga by Tolkien were made into major movies. In fact the boxed set takes nine hours to watch! Many of us went and saw the movies and some have read Tolkien's original works. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there is a kingdom called Gondor. It had been missing a king for generations and stewards were ruling in the king's place waiting for the new king to be revealed. In this story, the current steward was named Denathor. His title was "Denathor, steward of Gondor," but he was anything but a steward. He held onto power, position, frankly all the trappings of the king. He, in the end, rather than face the consequences of his bad stewardship committed suicide when Aragorn had returned to the land in a flaming end that still is legendary to movie goers. (Warning - this is graphic, but accurate to the movie and great stunt work...)
The point was that he had lost his perspective of his role as a steward of the kingdom. He was not an owner, but a steward. A steward is one duly appointed to match another's affairs and property. Since, "...the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof..." (Psalm 24:1), all that we have is a stewardship: our relationships, possessions, family and yes, even our money.
Deuteronomy and Stewardship
Deuteronomy 8 is a fascinating chapter of the Old Testament. In it, God speaks of both humbling and sustaining the children of Israel while they wandered in the wilderness. He also talks of remaining grateful in the midst of prosperity, less people be tempted to serve other gods and forget that the Lord had given them success. Finally, there is this verse that is near the end of the chapter:
18 "And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
It is God who empowers me to gain wealth in any measure, so what does it mean to remember that it is Him? We operate by His standards and not by the world's.
The world is all about accumulation and keeping, giving away wealth is seen as foolish. But the Lord states that one of the ways to create wealth is to be one who allows the stewardship of money to become a flow and not a dam.
So, how does this apply to giving? To receive, I must give. John Wesley, in respect to money said, "Make all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can."
Good Motivations for Giving
"What's a good motivation for giving?" is a question I get asked from time to time. My previous blog answered the highest call in giving which is to worship with it, but there is much more on the subject found in the pages of the Bible. remember that anything that God instructs us to do is always a promise of something He is doing or will do in us for for us. It's His nature, He can't help but being kind, generous and benevolent. In fact ,Jesus weighed in on this when He said:
38 ..."Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."
You might say, "Well, that sounds very self serving!" It might, but I didn't say it, Jesus did. The verse states what it states: give and it will be given unto you. In fact, you cannot receive until you learn to give. It is part and partial of stewardship.
I will give you an example of this learning to see how God meets our needs.
Years ago, Janice and I were planning on taking the family on a rather large vacation to the West Coast. There was one problem, we didn't have the money. So, we did what we always do, we prayed for it. A few days later, someone who did not know about our request sent the money that we needed (in this story, no one knew about our needs as we kept it between Janice and ourselves). We took the check, cashed it in our bank and said, "Lord, what do you want us to do with this money?" He told us, quite emphatically, "Give it away" and then told us who. We contacted the person and wrote them a check for the amount. We then prayed again, reminding the Lord of our need. True to form another check came for the amount and again, we asked the Lord, "What do we do with this money?" To our surprise, He said to give it away again and named whom we should give it to. We wrote another check and went back to pray, this time, giggling and eager to see what the Lord would do to meet our need. Again we asked, "Lord, this is fun. May we have more money to meet this need?" Again, within a day more money came to us. We asked the Lord, "What do you want to do with this money, Lord?" and this time the answer came back to us, "Keep this and use it for your trip". So we tithed on the amount as we did the others, (it was His gift after all), and applied the rest to a trip which the family still looks back at with incredible memories.
What did we learn about giving in this context?
It reinforced our stewardship and His ownership.
We learned that you literally cannot out-give God.
We saw the truth of this verse, "give and it shall be given unto you..."
Our faith in this area of life grew conspicuously, which would be tested in a short season later on...
We found ourselves becoming "hilarious" givers that Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians 9:6,7:
"6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."
The truth hidden in this experience and the scriptures is this: God has commanded us to give as an expression of worship and love and has, in those commandments, buried promises of His provision!
Let's look at a classic from Malachi 3:
8 "Will a man rob God?
Yet you have robbed Me!
But you say,
'In what way have we robbed You?'
In tithes and offerings.
9 You are cursed with a curse,
For you have robbed Me,
Even this whole nation.
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,"
Says the LORD of hosts,
"If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.
11 "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,"
Says the LORD of hosts;
12 "And all nations will call you blessed,
For you will be a delightful land,"
Says the LORD of hosts.
This is a command where the Lord invites you try Him! By releasing our tithe to the Lord, He says He will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings, even to our produce! The short end of this is that God blesses givers!
Well, if you deviated and read 2 Corinthians 9, you see there is a lot about giving and tithing. Its all through Philippians, a thank you letter for giving to Paul, especially this in Philippians 4:18,19 - "Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.", where we see again that giving is worship and results in our needs being met by God.
Now why have I spent two blogs about giving? Well, for that I have to go back to the Bible, Philippians 4:17 to be exact: "Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account." When you learn to be a steward and to direct the money in relationship with God as the rightful King and owner, blessings begin to cue up for you in His kingdom. Remember, everything goes back to relationship, even our handling of money. Give as an act of worship. Check in with God early and often about the stewardship of the money entrusted to you, and for that matter, about everything entrusted to you. Begin the flow of giving and see what God does in return. If you haven't given in a long time, or are new to it, ask God to help you.
I will have more to teach on this in the future, but my goal is to see the fruit of this abound to your account!
May God bless you richly!
Your fellow steward, Doug