I'd Like to Speak to the Manager - Part 5
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
May 13, 2018
Some of you are going to accuse me of a “bait and switch” today. If you don’t know what a “bait and switch” is, is an old scheme of unprincipled salesmen, particularly car salesmen (no offense), where an item is advertised super cheap to get folks in and then “all sold out” when folks arrive to get the deal. So the salesman switches them over to a higher priced item with a much higher margin. They bait you with a deal then switch you over to something else.
When you hear what the subject of today’s message is, you’ll swear I planned it this way since it’s Mother’s Day. You came expecting a message on mothers and what you got was a message on… tithing.
Before you grab mamma and run, hear me out. Three things:
(1) It is rare I preach a Mother’s Day message because the ladies do such an amazing job all around; you guys are on fleek and don’t need a special message.
(2) I promise I didn’t plan for this part of my series to fall on mother’s day, so you might say it’s providential.
(3) You may be surprised when you hear my “tithing” message because it isn’t a message on tithing at all. It’s a message on being a manager, or a steward.
For those joining us for the first time today or the first time in a while, I’m preaching a series called, ‘I’d like to Speak to the Manager.” Back in my retail days as a manager at Sears, I got that a lot. Someone would ask to speak to the manager and I’d show up. All that stuff I managed wasn’t mine; it was Sears’. That’s what management is, taking care of stuff that doesn’t belong to you.
Management is a super-biblical concept. In the Bible, it's called stewardship. I like the way one fellow explained it…
“If you have ever been on a ship, you know what a ship’s steward is. Or if you have ever been on an airplane, you know what a steward or a stewardess is. That person does not own the airplane or anything on the plane. The company owns everything, but he or she is entrusted with its care. That steward has been given the responsibility of taking the goods that belong to a higher authority and dispensing it to the people for their benefit. That is a steward—on an airplane or ship—and in the spiritual realm as well."
Stewards are servants put in charge of the master’s household and affairs. Jacob is the OT example of what a steward or manager should be.
This series is about how we are managers of things belonging to God. The first stewardship we looked at was our bodies, the second was our time, the third was the gospel, the fourth was grace gifts. And today it’s our wealth, our possessions.
Now we preachers, for the most part, have approached this from an OT perspective only. In fact, the word “tithe” is a very distinct OT word related to commands given a particular group of folks, the Israelites. To tithe meant to literally give a tenth, and the Israelites were required to give a tenth of their goods, whether agricultural or monetary, back to God.
When it comes to preaching on tithing, preachers have to use the OT, because finding a NT text on it is hard.
The go-to verse is…
Malachi 3:8 (ESV) — 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.
Would it surprise you to know I believe using this verse to get Christians “tithing” is wrong?
“Tithe” is found only eight times in the NT, and all of them refer to the OT practice. Three of those eight times Jesus is getting on to the Pharisees for doing a great job giving God a tenth of even the little things, but neglecting big things like showing mercy and being truly repentant.
In fact, nowhere in the NT do you see anyone commanding Christians to “tithe.” Why? I think it’s because Paul and Peter and James and John and all the other writers of the NT books and letters approached this from the perspective of stewardship and not keeping commandments.
What is stewardship again? Managing the resources of the owner. Look at what King David said…
Psalm 24:1–2 (ESV) — 1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.
King David, in collecting the materials needed to build a temple for God also said…
1 Chronicles 29:10–14 (ESV) — 10 Therefore David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
14 “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.”
And look at what James, the brother of Jesus said…
James 1:17 (ESV) — 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Put all that together and you get the idea I’ve been promoting from the beginning in this series: God made it all and sustains it all so he owns it all. So really whatever we have doesn’t belong to us but to God, which makes us managers or stewards. So when it comes to our possessions if someone said I’d like to speak to the manager, who’d show up? We would. But if they said they’d like to speak to the owner, who’d show up, God would.
One fellow said, and this scares me to death just like it does you…
“Since we are only stewards of the possessions God has seen fit to give us, every decision we make relating to our possessions has a spiritual implication. I wonder sometimes what difference it would make in our spending if Jesus had to appear in bodily form to co-sign all our checks before they would be negotiable.”
When it comes to our stuff it’s hard to let go and give in to the idea it’s not really ours, but God’s, isn’t it?
One time a preacher paid a visit to a farmer and asked, "If you had 200 dollars, would you give 100 dollars to the Lord?
"Sure would," said the farmer.
"If you had two cows, would you give one cow to the Lord?"
"Yeah, I would."
"If you had two pigs, would you give one of them to the Lord?"
The farmer replied, "That's not fair. You know I have two pigs."
Part of growing in grace is coming to the place where we realize our stuff is God’s stuff which means, as managers, we are called to use it the way He would.
What does God do with his stuff? He gives it away. If you don’t get that, think about this. God gave away his most valuable and prized possession…
John 3:16 (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
I’ll come back to that at the end, but, for now, know God is about giving, so his stewards should be about giving.
The OT saints tithed. We NT stewards give. The NT talks a lot about giving. I found a few things on giving we should know and practice as good managers of God’s resources…
Giving should be willful
Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth about how other churches were giving to help the saints in need in Jerusalem and how they should too…
2 Corinthians 9:6–7 (ESV) — 6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
This is the sowing principle in giving. Giving is like sowing seed, the more you give (sow) the greater the return ( harvest… in things that money can’t necessarily buy).
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
This means that we have come to the place where giving is intentional and not an afterthought. We give because we want to, not because we have to.
That doesn’t mean we don’t give until we can do it cheerfully. Sometimes the feeling follows the cat of faith.
Giving should be proportional
Acts 11:27–29 (ESV) — 27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.
Another way of saying that could be, they gave in proportion to how they’d been blessed.
We can give out of our means, or we can give in proportion to our means
If a millionaire were to give $1,000 to some need, he would be giving out of his means. If he were to give $100,000 he’d be giving in proportion to his means.
How much should I give? Give in proportion to your means not out of. That’s why a percentage (like the tithe) is a great way to give. It’s always proportionate.
Many Christians get hung up on the amount. God doesn’t look so much at the amount, as he does at the heart of the giver.
Mark 12:41–44 (ESV) — 41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
It’s not the dollar figure that ultimately determines the value of giving, it’s the sacrifice! This lady went beyond giving in proportion and boldly ventured into the realm of sacrifice.
Giving should be local (as in church)
Paul, in writing to the Christians at Corinth, directed believers to give through the church…
1 Corinthians 16:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
This doesn’t mean giving must be to the local church only (the principle of giving versus the tithe goes way beyond that), but it does mean giving should be centered on and around the community of faith. That was the example set by the early church (the early church was the church back in the days when the apostles were still alive).
Conclusion: There is so much more we could cover on this. I’m going to have to come back to one day and give it a series all its own.
Bottom line is we are stewards of all the stuff we have, because it’s really God’s. And he wants us to give willfully, proportionally, and locally.
Repeat after me… All my stuff comes from God and really belongs to God. That makes me a steward of it. Therefore I must use it the way God would, giving it away as he leads.
Start by praying about what God would have you give and go from there.
Know this today, folks. Tithing is a command. Giving is a privilege. The OT saints didn’t have a choice under the covenant they had with God through Moses. NT saints are under a better covenant so we are compelled to give out of gratitude!
Hebrews 8:6 (ESV) — 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.
What are those better promises? How about this?
Romans 10:9–11 (ESV) — 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
The greatest example of giving: Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) — 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV) — 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
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