There are three attitudes manifested in the church of Christ concerning giving. And every member of this congregation embraces one of these attitudes.
Attitude Number One that is manifested by many is this: That God will punish me for liberal giving. But someone says, “Surely, Brother Black, no would say that God would punish an individual for liberal giving.” Yes, many, many people believe this. Did you ever hear a person say, “If I were to give as God has prospered me, I could not educate my children”? “If I were to give like the Bible teaches, I could not provide for the necessities of life”? “If I were to give like the Bible teaches, I could not provide for old age”? “Well, naturally, I want to educate my children. Naturally, I want to enjoy the necessities of life. Naturally, I want to provide for old age. But if I do—if I give as God has prospered me, all these will be taken away from me.” Why…that individual actually believes that God will punish him for liberal giving!
Attitude Number Two is this—that many embrace, obviously: That God does not care what I give. And again, I can hear someone say, “Now, Brother Black, surely…surely no one would say that God does not care what a person gives.” Well, let me read you something—this little paper, Just A Minute. Many congregations take it—published in Houston, Texas, by Brother Thurmon [spelling?]. Let me read you a question that was written to Brother Thurmon. “An Elder’s Example in Giving” is the title. This is a question someone wrote Brother Thurmon. It says,
Dear Brother Thurmon, An elder in our congregation made the statement on Sunday morning that, “It made no difference if we gave money or not. That was not important.”
So, here’s an elder in a church telling the members that God does not care what you give, or whether you give.
Attitude Number Three is this: That God blesses one for liberal giving.
Now, every individual in this auditorium embraces, consciously or unconsciously, one of these attitudes—if [whether] you believe that God will punish you for liberal giving, or you believe God doesn’t care, or you believe that God will bless one for liberal giving. Now, what we want to do in the next few minutes is to turn to the Bible to see if God cares about our giving, if God will punish us for our giving, or will He bless us for our giving. Now, if I know my heart—if the Bible teaches that God will punish one for liberal giving, that’s what I intend to teach with all the power of my being, that you may give, but God’s going to punish you for doing it…if the Bible teaches that. If the Bible teaches that God does not care what one gives, that’s exactly what I’m going to preach to the very best of my ability and with all my heart—that God does not care. If the Bible teaches that God will bless one for liberal giving, that’s what I intend to teach.
Now. Let us turn to the Bible and see which of these statements is true. So, we will begin in the Old Testament, and then come to the New Testament.
We will begin in Proverbs, the 3rd chapter, verses 9 and 10: “Honor the Lord with the first of all thine increase, and so shall thy barns be filled with plenty and thy presses shall burst forth with new wine.” There are two words I want us to observe in verse 9, “Honor the Lord with the first of all thine increase…”—the word, “FIRST’, and the word, “ALL”.
The Bible places great emphasis upon the word, “first,” in our relationship to God. In 2 Kings, the 17th chapter, beginning with verse 8, there is a classis example. This is where Elijah had been in the wilderness, and the ravens had been feeding him, and he’s drinking from the brook. And the brook dried up, and the ravens ceased to feed him. And then, God spoke to Elijah and said, “Arise, and go to Zarephath…for I have a widow there who will sustain thee.” And Elijah obeyed the voice of God, went to this widow’s house, and when he arrived, she was gathering sticks. And Elijah said to here, “Bring me some water, that I may drink.” And while she was going to get the water, he said, “Fetch me a morsel of bread in thine hand, that I may eat.” And she said, “As the Lord God liveth, I have no bread. I only have a handful of meal. I’m going to bake a little cake. My son and I are going to eat it, and then die.” And Elijah told her, “If you will do this [if you will do as I have asked], as long as the famine lasts in this land, there will always be meal in the barrel to make bread for you and for your son.”
I don’t know that I can fully understand this. I really think I cannot. I was reared during the Depression. My father and mother had 10 boys, but I never remember going hungry. There are many of the luxuries of life that we did not enjoy. But to appreciate this, I want you, in your mind, to think…if you had just one small meal to eat when this service is over today, and then you’re going to die of starvation. There are no grocery stores in this county. Thousands of people have already died of starvation in this county. There’s no food in your house, except enough meal to make one little meal for you and your family, and than you’re going to die.
That was the circumstance of this widow. And Elijah said to her, “If you’ll go and do this, as long as the famine lasts in this land, every time you go to that barrel, there will be meal for you and for your son.” And the Bible says, “…she went…and did…according…to the saying…of Elijah.”
We talk about our faith in God today—how strongly we believe in God. Think of your faith in comparison to this widow. I’ve often thought in reading this, “Why didn’t Elijah say to her, ‘I tell you what you do. You go bake that little cake. You, your son and I will eat it, and then, if you do this, as long as the famine lasts in this land, there will be meal in the barrel for you and your son.” That isn’t what he said. He didn’t say, “You go bake that cake for you, your son and for me.” He said, “You go bake for me the little cake FIRST…”
Now, a question: Why did Elijah ask her to bake for him the little cake FIRST? That was the test of her faith. Why do you suppose Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you”? Why seek them FIRST? That’s the test of our faith!
In 2 Corinthians, the 8th chapter, beginning with verse 1, Paul said, “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.” Now notice verse 5: “5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first (there’s our word, “FIRST”) gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the Will of God.”
The context of this reading is that, there was a famine in Judea. The brethren over in Macedonia heard about the famine in Judea, and they prayed that they would let them have a part in it. I’ve often thought in studying this that the brethren in Macedonia were just about as poverty-stricken as the brethren were over in Judea! In Macedonia, there had been higher and higher taxation; there had been civil war after civil war; members of the church were being thrown into prison because of their faith in Christ; members of the church were being dismissed from their jobs; and yet, with all this poverty heaped upon them, when they heard of a need over in Judea, they prayed that they would let them have a part in it!
Now, the question is: Why was Macedonia so concerned about helping those poor people in Judea? Paul explains it in verse 5. He said, “…this they did… (speaking of the Macedonians). “…this they did, not as we hoped, but (they) first gave their own selvesto the Lord….” And let me tell you this, my friends, and listen carefully. Until an individual makes a complete surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, he will always have a problem with his giving! You can write that DOWN on a piece of paper and put it on your refrigerator!! Until an individual makes a complete surrender to Jesus Christ, he will always have a problem with his giving! BUT, when this individual makes that complete surrender, there is no problem. He’s going to become serious about this thing. He’s going to think about how well he’s been blessed, what God has done for him, and then he’s going to say, “To the very best of my ability, I’m going to give as my God has prospered me.”
Now, let us go back to our text [Proverbs 3:9-10]. Notice: “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all (ALL!) thine increase…”—the bank account; the CDs [Certificates of Deposit]; the cattle; the farm; the land. Think of everything, all the ways that God has blessed us. And then offer to God the FIRST of all these things.
Now, notice verse 10: “So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” Someone wants to know, “Brother Black, how can God bless a man for liberal giving?” I…don’t…KNOW!! I just know that God said that He would do it! I know that a promise is no better than the capacity of the individual who made that promise to fulfill it! For instance: If I should say to you, “If you will meet me in Corinth tomorrow, I’ll give you a hundred-thousand dollars ($100,000.00).” Well, I made you the promise, and you say, “I believe Brother Black,” so you meet me in Corinth tomorrow, but I don’t have $100,000—I can’t give you $100,000. Well, what did I do? I made a promise that I do not have the capacity to fulfill.
So, every individual is faced with a problem: Does God have the ability to do what He said He would do? You need not raise your hand, but let me ask you: Do you believe that God has the capacity to do what He said He would do? Now, you just think for a moment. Well, somebody says, “How can God do it?” I don’t know HOW God can do it! That’s not my business! That’s GOD’S business!! But, my point is, do I believe God?
Let me read you another verse. Ecclesiastes 11:1: “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” Now notice Proverbs 11:24: “There is he that scattereth abroad, and yet he increases….” This is one of the strangest verses in the Bible. You think how contrary that is to our selfish nature, to our inverted ego! What?!? Take these things that God puts in my hands; I begin to scatter them, supporting the Lords word?!? Supporting orphan homes?!? Supporting Christian education?!? Supporting every good work to the best of my ability?!? I’ll come up empty handed!! Now, just think for a moment. Isn’t that what selfishness is? God puts these things in my hands; I begin to scatter them, doing good; I’ll come up empty-handed. What did GOD say about it? God says there’s the man “that scattereth abroad, and yet…he…INCREASES”!!
Somebody says, “How in the world could that happen?!” I don’t KNOW! If you ever get to heaven, you can ask GOD about it!! That’s our faith! That’s what God said—“There’s he that scattereth abroad, and yet he increases….” I know it’s true, first of all, because God said it; I know it’s true because I am experiencing it. If you’ve tried it, you know it’s true; if you’ve never tried it, then you’re not competent to talk about it! How in the world would you KNOW if you’ve never tried it?! Those who’ve tried it have testified over and over and OVER that God has blessed them for their liberal giving! They all testify to that fact. Those that don’t testify are those who’ve never tried it.
Now, I wish I didn’t have to treat the latter part of that verse, but it’s in there and I’ll read it: “and there is he that withholds more that meet, and [but] it tendeth to poverty.” Someone says, “How could God do that?” I don’t know. I just know God said, “There’s the man that scatterth abroad. I see that he increases.” There’s that man that’s selfish, holding it back, and God says, “I’ll see that it tendeth to lead him to poverty?” Which the meaning is simply this, that which we ought to give to God, and we do not give it, we’re not blessed with it. No, I don’t think a man’s ever been blessed with money that he holds back that he ought to give to God as he’s prospered.
For instance, let me give you an illustration. Now, this is just a simple little illustration. Well, here’s a man in this congregation—according to what God has blessed him, he should be giving $100.00 a week. There may be those who ought to be giving $500.00 a week, I don’t know, or $50.00a week. I don’t know what your prosperity is. But we’re, for the sake of illustration, [saying that] here’s a man who ought to be giving $100.00 a week. But notice that selfish reasoning. He said, “I’m not going to give the $100.00. I know God has blessed, and I ought to do it, but I’m going to keep $50.00 for myself.” Then I console myself by saying, “I’ll still be giving more than the average member of the church.” (And if this would make you feel any better, you’d be giving four or five times more than the average member of the church through out America [if you kept back $50.00 of what God had prospered you, and just gave the $50.00]).
I’m just as convinced as in your midst I stand that man is never blessed with that which he holds back, that he knows in his heart he ought to give to God according to what God has prospered him. Let me read the verse to you again: “There is [he] that scattereth [abroad], and yet [he] increaseth; and there is [the man] that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.” Now, notice verse 25—that’s the verse we’re concerned about: “[But] The liberal soul shall be…made…fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself[or shall be watered again]” [Proverbs 11:25].
You know what our basic trouble is? We just…can’t…trust…God, can we? Oh, we believe in God—oh, yes. But do we trust God? You know, there’s a great difference in believing and in trusting.
Years ago, when our children were small, the Barnum and Bailey Circus came to Mobile, and our excuse for going, of course, was to take the children. And so, we went to the Circus. And it was really interesting. After they had done many, many things out there, finally there was a man down at the south end of the tent up on a platform—possibly like 30 or 35 feet above the audience. And he said, “If you will notice, there’s a cable stretched across the top of the tent, and this man on this bicycle is going ride that bicycle across that cable!” And I shall never forget… My son was about five or six years old—that age when they believe everything you tell them? And so, this excited my son, and he asked me, “Daddy, you believe he can do it?” And you know what I told him? I said, “Yes, son. I believe he can.”
Now just suppose some man sitting behind me had heard that conversation. So, this man on the platform says, “He’s getting ready to ride the bicycle across the cable. Is there any man in the audience who believes he can do it [and] will come up and ride on the handle bars with him?” And the man [sitting behind me who heard my conversation with my son] taps me on the shoulder. He raises his hand and says, “This man will ride with him! I just heard him tell his son [that] he believes you could do it!” There were not [There would not be] enough men in that tent to get me on the bicycle!
But someone said, “Did you believe he could do it?”
“Yes, sir, I believed he could do it.”
“Well, if you believed he could do it, why didn’t you ride with him?”
“I didn’t TRUST him!”
And that’s the way many believe in God! Oh, YES, I believe in God! I believe God will do what He said! But, do we trust God? Do we trust Him to the extent [that] we’ll do what He said? Oh, there’s a great difference in believing and in trusting. And our basic trouble with our giving—we just…can’t…trust God. Our faith is not that strong yet—that is, with many.
In Malachi, the 3rd chapter, beginning with verse 8, we read these words: “Will a man…rob God?” That’s some of the strongest language we read about in the Bible—“Will a man rob God?” Let me ask you, would you? Well, of course, you would say, “No.” Suppose I pass a slip of paper down each pew, and say [that] you can fold it up; you don’t have to put your name on it. [Then] I would ask, “Would you rob God?” What would you say? I have an idea [that] every individual would say, “No.” That’s what those Jews said. Malachi asked the question, “Will a man rob God?” And the Jews challenged him. They asked, “Wherein have we robbed Thee [God]?” He said, “In your tithes and in your offerings [“In tithes and offerings.”]. And you’re cursed with a curse: the whole nation is cursed, because you robbed Me [God].” [“Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation.”]
Well then, a question: How did they rob God? Well, in those days, they didn’t have the “First National Bank” or the mutual funds or the CD [Certificates of Deposit] system. So, people put their money—their wealth—in their cattle. And you know what those Jews were doing? The Jew would go out among his cattle and he found a cow that was sick. He knew the cow was going to die, and he says, “I’ll give that cow to God.” He’d keep looking; he’d find another cow that’s fallen into a ditch—she’d broken her hip. He said, “That cow can’t live, so I’ll take that cow and give it to God.” That’s what they were actually doing! And that’s when Malachi said to them, “Why don’t you offer that sick cow to your governor?” It’d be an insult! You won’t offer it to your governor, and yet, you offer it to God! And God said, “You’re cursed with a curse…. The whole nation is cursed, because you’ve robbed Me.”
And then, in verse 10, God said, “Bring all your tithes and offerings into My storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and PROVE ME….” Did you know that you can begin with the first chapter of Genesis; you can read through the last of Revelation, and in all of God’s dealings with mankind throughout all these years, as far as the Bible reveals, only one time God called upon man to prove Him? One time God said to man, “I want you to try ME. I want you to test Me. I want you to prove Me.” Notice what He said: “PROVE ME!…if I will not open [you] the windows of heaven, and fill you life with so many blessings that there might not be room enough in your life to receive them.” [Malachi 3:8-10: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings. 9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”]
Praise God. What a commitment! What a promise! Now, does God have the capacity to do that? [He says,] “Prove Me; test Me; try Me, and see.”
But I can just hear someone ask in a Bible class, “How in the world could God fill a man’s life with so many blessings that he can’t receive all of them?” Well, let me give you a personal example.
Several years ago—back when I was a younger preacher—about 35 or 40 years ago, I received a letter from a church about a Gospel Meeting, and I laid that letter down and didn’t answer it, because I was going from one meeting to another. I came home the second week, and my wife said, “That number’s on your desk. Did you return it?” [“The telephone number that was in that letter about a Gospel Meeting is on your desk. Did you return, or make the call?”] I said, “No.” I’d return it, but I picked the number up and I went to a meeting in Toledo, Ohio. And I had that number in my pocket, and one night in my motel room I thought [that] this would be a good time to return this call. And it was a call from one of the elders at one of the great churches in the South. And this man said, “Brother Black, we’ve had an elder’s meeting, and we would like for you to move here and become our pulpit minister (whatever that is).” And I said, “Well, I don’t think I can do it.” And so, I did not go.
Well, somebody says, “Why wouldn’t you go?” Well, it was not because of the salary, because the elders…. This man told me, “We’ve had a meeting, and we’ve agreed in the meeting [that] if you would come and preach for us, we’d let you set your salary.” How would you like an offer like that?
So, I said, “No, I can’t come.” Now, listen to me carefully. At that time I was in this full-time meeting work. For many years, I had done local work. I could not continue doing the local work and at the same time be doing this meeting work that I was doing. I had to make a choice between this work, or this work. Either one of them would have been a great work! Doing the local work was a great work. Preaching at meetings was a great work. But, I had to make a choice! So, I made the choice to give up the local work and to go into meeting work. Ah, God was filling up my life with so many blessings [that] I couldn’t accept all of them! That’s how He does it!
If we could just trust God…. And the ONLY thing that God is asking us to do is to give back to Him as He has prospered us. And let me ask you, “What’s wrong with that?”
Now, in the concluding part of this lesson, I want you to turn with me to 2 Corinthians, if you will. And I want you to read some verses with me. The reason I want you to read these verses is because I’ve marked them in my Bible—you may mark your Bible; you may not.
Several years ago I was going to a place to lecture on “Stewardship,” and I was sitting in the preacher’s office, and I was going to discuss the 8th and the 9th chapters of 2 Corinthians, because both chapters talk about “giving.” And I was sitting there and quoting these chapters to myself to see if I’d be able to quote them when I stood before the congregation. Even though I’d memorized these chapters, I began to notice some things now, as I’m quoting them [to myself] that I’d never observed before after studying it over and over to memorize it.
So, I want to read to you the REWARDS in these few short verses that God offers to one for liberal giving. So, if you have your Bibles, 2 Corinthians, the 9th chapter. I want you to notice these statements. We’ll not read every verse—just part of it. Listen to it:
“…he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” verse 9. What’s he talking about? He’s talking about giving. Just suppose there wasn’t another statement in the Bible—[that] that’s the only statement made. That man that gives bountifully is going to reap bountifully!
Notice verse 7. (That was verse 6 [above—not verse 9]). “…God loveth a cheerful giver.” I don’t know. I thought God loved everybody. There must be a special love that God has for a cheerful giver—“God loveth a cheerful giver.”
Now, notice verse 8. I think verse 8 means more to me—possibly more—than any other one promise God’s ever made about our giving. “God…is able…to make all grace…abound toward you….” You know, if I’m saved, I’m going to have to be saved by the grace of God. We plan to talk about that one night. And what a glorious HOPE it is to hear God say, “I’m able to supply ALL the grace that you’ll ever need.” What a promise! What a reward! About what? For liberal giving. How can we read these things and still refuse to give liberally as God has prospered us?
And now, notice verse 9: “…His righteousness remaineth forever.” It shall not pass away. “His righteousness remaineth forever.”
Also notice verse 10: “…and [God] will multiply your seed sown….” I don’t know where every penny goes that I give. I don’t know where every penny goes that you give, but God knows where every penny of it went. And God will multiply the seed sown.
Now, notice verse 12: “…abundant…many thanksgivings unto God….” It’s going to motivate people to offer up thanks to God, because of what you’re doing.
And notice verse 13: “and they’ll glorify God for your professed subjection unto the Gospel of Christ….”
And notice verse 14: “And [by] their prayer[s] for you….” What rewards! When people hear about your good deeds, about your good works, it’s going to motivate people to pray for you. I want people to pray for me. For years and years, there was a lady that lived down on the Florida line. She’s gone on to heaven now. But she was one of the finest ladies I think I ever knew. While she was living, just about every week or ten days I’d get a card from her, or a letter. And she’d say, “Brother Black, I know you travel a lot—stay on the road all the time. I want you to know I pray for you every night.” Oh, that meant a lot to me. James says, “The effectual fervent prayer of one man availeth much.” I want thousands of people to pray for V. P. Black! And Paul says [that] when they hear about your liberality, they’re going to pray for you.
Now, after offering all these rewards, notice what he says in verse 15. He changes the subject altogether, and says, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” I can’t describe that to you.
If you’re subject to the invitation, we invite you to come while we stand and sing.
Speaker: V. P. Black Date: April 11, 2004, Sunday Morning Worship Service During a Gospel Meeting Hosted by the Strickland church of Christ in Glen, Mississippi Main Scripture References: Luke 6:38