Giving Generously

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February 2, 2010

Sunday I talked about five “windows” that tithing opens for us.

1. The window of mutual commitment. Tithing says, “I’m loyal to God and he’s loyal to me. I can trust him to take care of me.”
2. The window of personal provision. Tithing puts us into a position to be blessed by God.
3. The window of financial order. Tithing puts discipline into your spending, protecting you from greed and materialism.
4. The window of spiritual identity. Tithing identifies us as “people of God.”
5. The window of ministry impact. Tithing releases resources to support ministry and ministry activities.

If you’re new to this, tithing refers to the practice of giving at least 10 percent of one’s income back to God to be used in ministry. The Israelites were to give 10 percent of their income or crops making it possible for the priests to feed the poor and receive support for their living expenses. Their gifts were used to support ministry. Malachi 3:10 instructed them to, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse…” The storehouse in the Old Testament was the temple. The storehouse in the New Testament is the church. When we tithe into the storehouse of the church, we are releasing funds into the care of church leaders to use those resources to support ministry and ministry activities. For that reason, I believe your tithe should go to the church you attend. Now there may be causes and projects that you are passionate about and want to help fund. The Bible differentiates that as an offering, and it should be given over and beyond our regular tithe.

When it comes to where we give our tithe, Pastor Barry Cameron says, “Remember, we’re to bring the tithe into the storehouse where we are cared for and led. You don’t eat at Burger King and say, ‘I appreciate the food, but I’m going to go down to Taco Bell and give them my money.’ It doesn’t work that way. We’re to bring the tithe, God’s tithe to the storehouse where we’re cared for and led.”

Another conviction I have is that the tithe belongs to God. We are not free to designate it, divide it, or direct it wherever we want. Unfortunately, some people want to say to the church, “Take my tithe and use it for this or apply it to that.” We can’t do that. That’s God’s tithe. In the Old Testament, priests administered the tithes and offerings. Today, Church Elders are charged with that responsibility. They are to take the tithes we bring and prayerfully and carefully direct their use. It’s important for church members to trust their decisions and not try to direct their tithes to their favorite ministries. Not only is that questionable legally, it creates problems for those who track our finances. Now occasionally, there are missions that we support or projects we tackle in which we ask members to consider giving a designated gift, over and above their tithe (like we’re doing now with the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission). But the norm should be to give our tithe to God and trust him for the distribution.

Ultimately, the question of tithing comes down to this, “What do you fear most? Not having enough or not having the involvement of your heavenly father in the realm of your finances.” I hope you’ll take the challenge to start tithing or to grow in your tithing.

Sunday, I also updated you on our current financial situation at Cedar Ridge. For 2009, our giving was about 15 percent down from the previous year. That is a trend many churches are experiencing now. We have certainly been affected by the economy; some members are unemployed or have taken a lesser-paying position. Because of that, we have adjusted expenses accordingly. In crafting our 2010 budget, a 15 percent cut was reflected. Unfortunately since some expenses, like utility costs and mission support, aren’t optional; it means that many of our key ministries took a 40 percent cut in funding. In addition to that, we have cut back our building payments to the minimum amount of principal and interest required by the bank, instead of paying extra on the principal to accelerate our debt reduction.

The good news is that we have not had to lay off staff or cut salaries as many churches have been forced to do. We have not had to cut our mission support. We’re still giving 13 cents of every dollar that’s given, to mission efforts around the world. And God still owns it all. May we be faithful stewards.

If you missed Sunday’s sermon, you can always go back and listen anytime at cedarridgecc.com. Don’t forget to read Chapter Three of the book, Rich Toward God, this week.

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