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Nov 09, 2014

More Than a Drop in the Bucket

More Than a Drop in the Bucket

Passage: Malachi 3:6-12

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Mosaic On the Move

Keywords: tithing, giving, free will, grace, first fruits, sacrifice


This message looks at tithing and free will giving, their biblical basis and what God asks of every one of His children when it comes to giving.


Far More than ‘A Drop in the Bucket’

Message#2 of Mosaic on Mission

November 9, 2014


RECAP: If you were with us last Sunday, you remember that I gave you a little assignment for this week that had to do with recognizing God’s radical generosity in our lives every hour. How did it go? Have you felt any change in your heart as you’ve taken time to pause and regularly thank God for His radical generosity to you every hour?


SHARING: Anyone seen “the good hand of our God upon us” lately?

  • Last week Chuck commended our leaders for leading the way in giving by letting go of the vast majority of the funds we’ve saved for several years for just such a move as the one we’re contemplating. Well, this week I want to commend our leaders, one of whom shared with me how they had been nudged by the Holy Spirit to make their “Faith Pledge” giving to our Relocation Campaign at least equal to whatever the first pledge received was in this campaign. Well, we didn’t ask anyone for a pledge last week. In fact, unless God had already spoken to you about it, we suggested that you wait and pray about it. But someone in the congregation had apparently already heard from God. So they went ahead and turned one in. It was the first pledge we’ve received. And it was for $10,000! So this church leader’s “Faith Pledge” just demanded a whole lot more faith than they may have been planning on. J


RECAP last week’s discussion about developing a “Culture of Giving”.

  • WHY, regardless of the project or object of our giving, should growing in giving be so important for us as God’s kids? [Answer: if we are to become more like Christ, we must be growing in giving. Our God is a radically generous God!]
  • What were the four “levels” or “types” of giving that Chuck talked with us about in a culture of giving?

o   Something from everyone.

o   Tithes and Offerings

o   Sacrificial giving

o   Faith Pledges


So I want to pick up where he left off and hone in on two, maybe three, of those four types of giving today. And just for the record and for any of you who think all preachers talk about is money,

1.)    …Jesus himself talked more about money and how we are to manage it than He did about heaven or hell! He spent a full 15% of his recorded words on this one subject. (By that measure, I should be preaching on money more than once every-other month.)

2.)    …God chose to devote twice as many verses in His love letter to us, the Bible, than to faith and prayer combined!

3.)    …this is the first time in 7 years that I’ve addressed financial giving in a specific manner like this for any project directly related to Mosaic Fellowship.


So if you don’t think we should be looking at the Word of God today and what it has to say about different kinds of giving, take it up with your Creator. I’m just the postman!


So let’s start at the bottom of the “Culture of Giving” pyramid—Something from EVERYONE. Is this really biblical? Does God ask, even expect, everyone who claims to be a part of His people, followers of Christ, to give something? And if so, how much…and to whom? Fair questions, aren’t they?


So what did the Old Testament teach about WHO should give and HOW MUCH?

I’ll save you the trouble of having to read through the entire O.T. to figure that out. But I would challenge you NOT to just take my word for it. Please do read the O.T. and find out for yourself if I’m twisting the teaching or telling the truth.

            We need to understand that giving something significant to God wasn’t something God introduced thousands of years after the beginning of human experience. Apparently God had something to say about it to our first parents, Adam and Eve, and their children.

            In Genesis 4, we’re introduced to two of Adam and Eve’s many children, Cain and Abel. It takes a whole 3 verses for God to get around to telling us that besides working the ground and keeping the sheep, Cain and Able both knew they were to bring an offering to the Lord.

3.)“In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4.) and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.”

Now we won’t get into what happened in the course of giving those offerings that ended with Cain killing his brother Abel. The point I want to make is that the first two sons of Adam and Eve must have been raised to know they were to offer to God some of the fruit of their labors, their own income.


Noah knew that too because fresh out of the Ark in Genesis 8:20 he offers an offering to God…and talk about a limited supply of animals to offer! You can almost hear Noah, “Shem, I told you to offer one of the sheep, not the mammoths!” J


Abraham in Genesis 14 informs us that he somehow knew that he should give 1/10th of everything he had gained to the priest Melchizadek, king of Salem, when he rescued Lot and family from the kings of the plain. Hebrews 5 & 7 tell us that Abraham was really tithing to God in that act.


Fast forward to the giving of the Mosaic law in Exodus 23:15. God said, “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.” This was in reference to one of the “first-fruits offerings” talked about in Lev. 19:23-25 (the first production of a vineyard) and Exod 23:16; 34:22 or Deut 18:4 (which concerned the first of the annual production of grain, wine, olive oil, and sheared wool, honey…basically ALL the produce of the land (2 Chron 31:5))—it all belonged to the Lord. And a significant portion of those firstfruit offerings went to support the spiritual leaders and their ministry on behalf of the people of God (Nu. 18:12).

Firstfruit” offerings were an important way for the people of God to say and demonstrate a couple of things. It was their way of saying, “We give our first and best to you, our Lord, because we recognize all that is good comes from you.” And it was one of their primary ways of demonstrating that their trust was in God, not the land or their own labor.

The term “tithe” stressed the exact amount (a “tenth” or 10%) while “firstfruits” emphasized the nature and quality of the offering—the first and the best of the work of their labor.

Speaking of the tithe, there were actually 3 tithes in Israel that God’s people were to give. One, called the “Levite tithe”, was to support the priests and Levites (Num. 18:21, 24). Another, called the Festival Tithe, provided for a sacred festival (Deut. 12:17-18; 14:23). Call it a really big party in honor of God! The third tithe was given to support the poor, orphans, and widows and thus called “the poor tithe,” (Deut. 14:28-29; 26:12-13).

Since the Levite and Festival Tithes were every year and the Poor Tithe was only every 3rd year, it meant that every Israelite was actually giving about 23% of their income annually to support both the civil social net and the spiritual worship system.

In addition to these 3 tithes that belonged to God right off the top, the O.T. also speaks about voluntary or “freewill offerings” (Lev. 22:18-23; Num. 15:3; Deut 12:6, 17). These were contributions beyond the tithe or firstfruits. They were the true “giving” because the tithes were not to be optional. They were simply the paying back or repaying of what God said was clearly His from the get-go.

But “freewill offerings” were really voluntary offerings, the sort of give-as-you-wish or give-as-you-are-moved-to-give sorts of offerings. They went towards special projects like building the Tabernacle under Moses (Ex. 35-36), building the Temple under David (I Chron. 29:3-9) or rebuilding the Temple under Ezra (1:4, 6; 3:5; 7:16; 8:28). In essence, the tithe was a test and demonstration of obedience while the voluntary offerings were a demonstration and test of love, joy and a heart of worship.

ILL: We could illustrate the difference between the two with a little romance story. Imagine your dad sets you up with a blind date. (Already some of you aren’t liking this story. Sorry. J) He tells you that you have to go on this date with the daughter or son of a good friend of his. So you dutifully prepare for the date and are ready at the appointed time.

But when you meet your date, you find that they are really pleasing to the eye…and fun…and great to be with. You really enjoy that first date…and the second…and the third. You see, that first date was the “required tithe” because your dad wanted you to find someone he knew was really great. But the second and third were your choice. They were the “voluntary offerings”, something you chose to do because you wanted to.    

This is why, after years and years of empty religious ritual, at the end of the O.T., in the book of Malachi, God pronounces judgment on His people for failing to bring the “full tithe” to Him. The idea had developed among the people of God that something less than the full 10% was required. But God hadn’t changed his charge to the Israelites even 1%. Listen to what God says through Malachi his prophet at the close of the O.T. in Malachi 3:6-12.

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windowsof heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.


SUMMARY: So there you have the clear and unequivocal standard of the O.T.: 20-25% annual obligatory tithes and any number of free-will “offerings” or “contributions.” To do less was considered by God to be stealing from Him.


But does that mean we’re obligated to do the same thing in the N.T. age of grace? Or are we now free to simply choose our own standard…or no standard at all, in other words give nothing depending upon whether we want to or not?

Let me say first of all that there is no verse in the N.T. that commands the tithe of Christ-followers…just as there is no N.T. verse that commands us to keep the Sabbath, i.e. do no work on Saturday and instead set Saturday aside for worship only.

Having said that, does the N.T. mean that believers are to work 7 days a week then? No, the church has never believed that. Rather it has been fairly strong in advocating for the principle of a Sabbath every week. The church has always held that there should be at least one day a week that is reserved for Christ-followers to gather to worship God, fellowship together, share in the teaching of the Word, serve people and any number of spiritual acts of worship.

The same can be said of tithing. The Christian church has always held to the principle of tithing. There is no indication the early church ever retreated from the concept that the tithe was the basic minimum to be given to the Lord. [Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions, and Eternity, p. 216]

St. Augustine wrote, “Tithes are required as a matter of debt, and he who has been unwilling to give them has been guilty of robbery.” He went on to say that giving alms should be above and beyond the tithe. [Alcorn, p. 216.]

Jerome stated, “If anyone shall not [pay tithes] he is convicted of defrauding and supplanting God.” [Alcorn, p. 217]

Irenaeus, an influential church father, wrote, “The Jews were constrained to a regular payment of tithes; Christians, who have liberty, assign all their possessions to the Lord, bestowing freely not the lesser portions of their property, since they have the hope of greater things.”   [Alcorn, p. 216]


But what about the first church under grace, the Jerusalem Church? Did they give less than 10-25%? Listen to the commentary of Luke in Acts 4—

32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.

            Was this less than tithing? I seriously doubt that. Had 23-25% giving from their incomes had been enough to meet the needs of the rapidly growing and persecuted church, there would have been no need for people to dip into their savings, into their investments, their real property of houses and lands. But they did, which is clear indication of going far above and beyond merely a tithe.

            Another interesting thing in this text. It appears that giving was not private either. Just as giving in the Temple was something apparently everyone watching could see (and Jesus sat down just to watch giving one day in the Temple…but we’ll get to that in a moment), so there was apparently nothing “secret” about giving in the early church. The apostles all knew who gave what. People watching apparently knew that Barnabas had sold a field…as well as Ananias and Sapphira in the next chapter (Acts 5), only they lied about the sale price.

            Funny how we like to be selective in our reading of Scripture, isn’t it. We want the Holy Spirit power and signs of the early church but we’re not so hot on the extravagant public giving and persecution parts. J

            This all makes me wonder: Why is it that so many Christians (at least in the richer Western church) argue against the tithe? Is it because they want to outdo the tithe? Give more than 23%? I haven’t met one of those yet. No, it’s usually that they don’t want to feel like they are cheating or robbing God by giving less than the tithe or tenth. By actually giving far less than 10-23%, such people are effectively saying God has lowered his standards of giving and that N.T. grace means reduced commitment. Is that really what grace is to lead to?

            Whenever Jesus was questioned about the Law, did he lower the bar or raise it? He raised it! Hatred was raised to the level of murder. Lust was raised to the level of adultery. Taking oaths was raised to the level of abusing God’s name. Living under grace doesn’t mean lowering the standards of the law. It means that you want to do more…love more, pray more, give more.

            Yet per capita giving of church members in America is usually less than 2.3% of their incomes. What a revealing statistic. Apparently the Law was ten times more effective than grace! Something is certainly wrong with this picture! To argue against tithing and then to give less than a tithe is effectively saying God has lowered his desired standards of giving and that grace means a reduced degree of commitment. Hmmmm?


Arguing against tithing for Christ-followers misses the one of the major reasons God wants us to give regularly, give generously and give significantly. God wants to bless faith that gives, faith that holds tightly to God while letting go of the stuff of this world.

ILL:   Washington has this seat belt law—click it or ticket, right? But what if it was repealed tomorrow? Would I then stop buckling my children and grandchildren in? Would I tell my kids, “Hey, don’t bother with that. We don’t have to do that any more. Besides, I don’t want you guys to get all legalistic about safety and all that.”


ILL: I can’t tell you the number of people I know who never had enough money (no matter how much they were making) until they began to tithe. Tithing is a way of saying, “I’m putting my faith in God, not in this meager 10%. I’m trusting Him to make up the difference, not these few dollars…or hundreds of dollars.”

            My experience has been that I cannot afford NOT to tithe…and give free-will offerings…and faith pledges…and any step of generosity that God invites me to engage in be it sacrificial or out of abundance. Every time I’ve been challenged to give MORE…and done so…I’ve found I really can’t out give God.


In fact, I really don’t care how little anyone makes. It doesn’t matter if you are just getting SSI or Disability or panhandling on the street or earning minimum wage. When people say, “I don’t make enough to tithe,” I want to ask them, “How much will be enough?” If you are taking in a dollar a day, you can’t live without 10 cents of it? If you are receiving or earning $200/week, you can’t survive without $20.00 of it? Aren’t we a lot safer living on less inside the will of God (being in the practice of regular, significant giving) than living on more outside God’s will?


The great Evangelist John Wesley wrote about money,

            “Money never stays with me. It would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find its way into my heart.”


Let me put this another way. What does it say to God when we fail to give him the “first fruits” or “tithes”? [Ask.]

  • It says His provision of us is insufficient and His wisdom about what we need is flawed.
  • It says His care for us is not worth saying “Thank you.”
  • It says, “You, God, don’t know what you are talking about if you think what you’ve given me is enough.”


ILL: Think of it this way. What if you gave your children what you determined was what they needed to live on any given month and you factored in the amount they would need to spend developing a closer relationship with you. So when you gave them their monthly check, you asked them to take 1/10th of it and spend it on building their relationship with you in some way—perhaps buying you both coffee…or dinner out…so you could have a great time of conversation together? They could choose to get a book and reading it together…or hire a counselor to help you with your family communication…or throw a party you could share with others to enjoy being together…or use it to serve someone who needs help or needs to know the love of God?

            That’s what giving to God is really all about. That’s why in the O.T. giving and festivals were often inseparable. Your giving allowed/made possible a celebration. Giving is not some abstract action that has no connection to God who asks us to give. It is a way of saying how much we value the relationship He offers…how spending time and money on Him is really what we love to do.


Let me end with this before I ask you to meditate on one final passage.

In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul writes to a group of people probably a lot like us today—people of different economic means, at different levels of spiritual maturity, at different places in their experience with God. And he says this.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

            Notice briefly a few vital words:

  • “Each one must give….” Giving financially for God’s Kingdom work here and now is not for those with a certain level of income. It isn’t for people who have maxed out their retirement account. It isn’t just for people who own homes or drive nice chariots/cars or have the latest clothes. When the love of God really reaches us, we will feel a longing to give no matter how little we have.
  • “…as he has decided in his heart…cheerful[ly]….” Giving that changes us is giving that is decided in our hearts.

There is this amazing connection between our hearts and our money. Jesus told us that “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” (Mt. 6:21). So if my treasure is in the bank or in the stock market or in my house or in my monthly check, my heart will go there first. But if my treasure/my money is in what Jesus is doing in my day, my family, my town, my mission projects, then my heart will delight to go and invest there.

Developing a heart and culture of giving must pass through our hearts. It will involve a wholly different heart attachment in this world from those who don’t know Christ. It will mean that giving rather than consuming will become what brings us joy. It will mean that making decisions in our hearts to be generous is what will make changes in our moods of being cheerful.  


APP: How about doing this little giving exercise this week. As you go about your days spending money here and there, notice if there is any difference in your happiness factor between money that is spent just on yourself and money you spend/give for someone else.

  • What happens to you when you treat someone else to coffee rather than just paying your own?
  • How do you feel shopping for food for your family or someone else you know needs food rather than paying for your own meal out?
  • How does it feel to give to Mosaic or some other ministry this week as opposed to paying the cable bill or renting a movie at NetFlix?


Last passage for the morning. Look at this short story we find in Mark 12 and Luke 21. I’ll read the Mark 12 account.You listen very carefully. Really listen!

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.”


Listen for detail. I’ll read it again.


1.)    Now, turn to someone next to you and come up with as many details as you can remember a out this story. (2 min.)

2.)    What does this passage teach you about God? (2 min.)

3.)    About people? (1 min.)

4.)    About money? (1 min.)

5.)    About giving? (2 min.)

6.)    So what do you think God wants YOU to do as a result? (30 seconds of silence)


As we prepare for Communion, I’d like to ask you to do something different here today. I’m going to pass around a basket with pennies in it. I’d like you to take 2.

            Then I would like to invite you to experience just a little bit of what it felt like for this widow to put her 2-cents worth in the offering…her “drop in the bucket”, if you will. She did it much more publically than I’m asking you to do. But it was apparently all she had. On the one hand she must have felt embarrassed for how little she was able to give. On the other hand, her giving made her one of the most famous givers of all times…and her humble faith-act has probably changed more people’s giving habits than any other N.T. person.

            As you come up to take communion, will you please put your 2 pennies in the “ALL” bucket? Imagine what it would feel like for you to put ALL you had to live on in that bucket. After you do that, return to your seat and talk with God about what you are thinking and how it’s making you feel.







Choose any (or all) of the following passages.

  • 2 Corinthians 8-9
  • I Timothy 6:17-19
  • Matthew 25:14-30
  • Mark 12:41-44
  • Mark 10:17-31
  • Luke 16:1-13
  • Deuteronomy 28:1-13


Then ask the same six questions about each of the passages:

  1. What does this passage teach me about God?
  2. What does it teach me about people?
  3. What does it teach me about money?
  4. About giving?
  5. About keeping/holding onto money?
  6. Since this is true, what do I think God wants me to do now?


Suggested reading:

  • The book of Proverbs in the Bible
  • Money, Possessions and Eternity by Randy Alcorn