Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):

Stingy Christians and a Generous God

If you can describe yourself as a generous Christian -- as evidenced by your acts of generosity toward YEHOVAH God and man -- feel free to skip this article.

by Ken Westby

The Rabbi called on a member of his congregation for a pledge to enlarge the synagogueís sanctuary. "Sam, our congregation is growing larger every year and we really need this addition. Could you pledge a hundred dollars?"

"No, Rabbi, I canít."

"Well, then, how about fifty?"

"I canít do it, Rabbi, Iím heavily in debt and I got to pay my creditors first."

"But Sam, you owe a great debt to God, too, and donít you think He deserves your generous response?"

"He sure does, Rabbi, but God isnít crowding me like my other creditors."

In life it seems we are continually being "crowded" for our money by people as well as by our own needs, desires, and appetites. Money is a big deal in life which is why it was a frequent topic in the Messiahís ministry.

In the short space of the Gospels, the Messiah preached at least thirty-one sermons on money or giving! Today, heíd probably be accused of harping too much about money.

Most of us preachers donít have the courage of the Messiah. The truth is, preachers are afraid to speak boldly about money and giving for fear of being criticized. The scandal of money-hustling TV preachers, and of self-serving celebrity clergy have poisoned the waters of Christian giving. The result has been that dedicated ministers and Christian workers, sincerely serving worthy causes and ministries, have become too timid to bring up money lest they be identified with the money-grubbers and frauds. But such timidity is also cowardly and serves neither YEHOVAH God nor His church.

I risk criticism by bring up the "M" word and suggesting some Christian are stingy. Well, criticize away, but please honestly consider the scriptural substance of this article. The "seed" of this message on giving may fall on stony ground, but the job of the sower is to sow, not to be popular.

The Strongest Scripture on Giving

It is not harping on money to simply follow the text of Scripture and make an honest effort to apply its principles to daily living. Letís begin with the Greatest and First Commandment which reads,

"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5, the Messiah adds mind when he repeated it in Mark 12:30).

The gathering of terms -- heart, soul, mind, strength -- indicate the totality of our commitment toward YEHOVAH God. We are to love YEHOVAH God with our whole selves -- everything that we are and everything we have within our power.

Rabbinical scholars note that the word "strength" includes more than how big your muscles are or your energy level. They suggest the primary meaning of "strength" has to do with loving and serving YEHOVAH God with "all thy possessions." [1]

We are attached to our possessions and are rarely separated from them until that last mortal breath when we leave every dollar and everything else behind. We acquire our possessions with money earned by the sweat of our brow -- by dedicating our time to a job. Our life is time and weíve invested some of that life to gain whatever possessions and wealth we presently have. There is nothing wrong with being rich, or with owning and enjoying material things, except when we have a stronger attachment to them than we do to YEHOVAH God and the things of YEHOVAH God. (YEHOVAH is rich and loves to abundantly bless His people as evidenced by the millionaires of Genesis -- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.) [2]

Remember when the rich young man came to Yeshua expressing his willingness to do any good thing to attain eternal life? How did the Messiah test the fellowís commitment? He asked him to love YEHOVAH God above his possessions: Donate them to the needy, join the disciples, and follow His Son.

In spite of his religious testimony that he was sincerely obeying YEHOVAH God and chasing after eternal life, he was, in fact, unwilling to love YEHOVAH with all his strength/possessions. He rejected the Messiahís offer and walked away depressed. Matthew notes the reason why he wouldnít give, "he had great possessions," [3] and was obviously too attached to them. Was he a hypocrite? Stingy? Stupid? Maybe all three? The Messiah wasnít fooled by his religious face and boast. True disciples/Christians must be willing to put YEHOVAH God first -- in everything. [4]

But before we get too hard on that fellow, we had best take a private look in our own mirror.

Excuses by the Trainload

After 42 years of pastoral work I have probably heard every excuse for not giving (or giving precious little) either by tithing or generous freewill offerings. They run from the obvious, to the creative, to the bizarre: "I canít afford it -- too many bills," "Iím on a fixed income," "Iíve got a large family," "I pay too much in taxes," "I donate to charity through work and through the union," "churches get plenty of money and they donít need mine," "most preachers are crooks," "I donít belong to a church and I donít know any people in need," "I tithe to myself since every believer is a minister and priest," "I donít believe God expects me to give," "I give in non-monetary ways," "I canít give but I pray," "my husband wonít let me," "my wife would object," "if I made more money or were rich Iíd be very generous," "when I find a worthy church or cause Iíll give, but havenít found one yet," etc.

One of the more popular excuses against a committed and generous program of Christian giving is: Tithing is no longer required. This frequent argument serves to excuse the Stingy Christian against any robust or generous giving program. I might agree with that statement, but does that mean that it is somehow wrong or "legalistic" to give ten percent of oneís income by oneís own freewill? Was the ten percent tithe, as presented in Scripture, the minimum or maximum amount one was to give? Is tithing the most powerful of YEHOVAH Godís principles on giving? What do you think?

What is the motive behind the loud chorus against tithing? Are these attackers noble liberators freeing people from doctrinal error and cutting off corrupt preachers from their support? Maybe. My experience with many anti-tithe crusaders reveals, instead of noble motives, a quest for personal justification of their selfish behaviors. They donít tithe and they arenít generous toward YEHOVAH God. In fact many are hostile to churches in general and ministers in particular. We need to ask, are the tithers we know being forced to give against their will? (In the spirit of full disclosure I should disclose my personal belief: I donít believe tithing is binding upon Christians, nor do I believe churches should intimidate or require members to tithe. However, tithing, which is proportional giving, is one of many good examples of Godly giving principles. During our forty-one years of marriage, fifteen of which we believed tithing was required, my wife and I have always donated much more than a tithe. Read on for other biblical principles of Christian generosity.)

Years ago I remember when thousands of Christians who had been regular tithers (believing it was commanded), left their church organization and after their study of Scripture, concluded that tithing was no longer binding upon them. The reactions that followed were varied and revealed in each person how much of the nature of YEHOVAH God he or she had internalized.

Some breathed a sigh of relief and said that since they did "have to" tithe they werenít going to. They just got a ten percent raise and rejoiced they now had more to spend on themselves. For years following their departure from their old church organization they continued to complain about how they had been ripped off by a lousy church and never again would they part with their money for ministry, church, evangelism -- anything religious. They could frequently drag up the "Iíve been burned in the past" excuse for being stingy with YEHOVAH God and keeping everything for themselves. I wonder how their sad story sits with YEHOVAH God. Does He give them a pass on developing a generous spirit toward supporting the Gospel because they, by their own decision, had belonged to an error-filled organization that misused some of their tithe money?

Others acknowledged a Christian responsibility to at least give something to the Cause of the Messiah, but felt they had paid their big dues in the past church regime and from here on out it was going to be nickel and dime giving. No commitments, no proportional giving, just a little here and there as the "spirit moved" or if a touch of guilt motivated them. In effect, they retired from an active support of any church or ministry. Perhaps they figured the money they had donated in the past, when they were required to do so, had amassed a sufficient treasure in heaven to tide them over.

Still others regarded their past tithing (in some cases hyper-tithing) as "given to God" regardless of the human failings of the people receiving the tithes. They had dedicated those funds as holy offerings to YEHOVAH God and carried over no regrets even though they now no longer regarded tithing a legal requirement. They continued to be generous in their giving and continued to regard their freewill offerings "holy unto God."

We express ourselves with our money and these different reactions above reveal a level of spiritual maturity -- or the lack of it. YEHOVAH God is not fooled by our "victim stories," He just looks at our actions, our generous giving, and can see for Himself if we love Him with all our "strength" and with all we possess.

Some Giving Principles

YEHOVAH God is a generous God and loves to fill our cups of blessing to overflowing. He also wants us to become like Him and possess this virtue. This virtue, of course, is manifested in many ways beyond monetary giving. YEHOVAH wants us to be generous with our talents and abilities, generous with our time, generous in sharing our learning, generous in our encouragement and praise, and generous in our hospitality. But Scripture is clear, giving of our resources is one of the most important examples of the virtue of generosity. Letís just look a just a few principles of Godly giving.

1) Giving as YEHOVAH God has prospered us. In giving, the source is "as God has prospered him," [5] as Paul expresses it. This means giving is to be in proportion to what a person earns, not necessarily what a church or some needy person requests. This principle requires one to measure the level of prosperity he has enjoyed (income), and respond in kind by determining a suitable amount to give.

2) Give according to the need. Needs do matter. This principle deals with giving to meet a particular need as was the case when the church first began and thousands of pilgrims had to be fed and sheltered. Drastic needs required drastic measures and the Brethren were selling whatever they could lay their hands on to support these needy Christians caught far away from their homelands. [6] This principle could trump the "as youíve been prospered" principle given the emergency circumstances.

In fact the first deaths in the new church were at the hands of YEHOVAH God who struck down two people who were pretending to be more generous, in the face of this crisis in the new church, than they really were. [7] Others may not have known this married couple were lying, but YEHOVAH God did and revealed their lie thus making the point for all time that we canít fool YEHOVAH God about how generous we are -- or arenít. Some of the most terrible punishments YEHOVAH has meted out were upon the covetous. [8] Paul said, "covetousness is idolatry." [9] Covetous people are usually stingy. How we handle our money matters with YEHOVAH God.

3) "Giving as you have been blessed" is the principle behind most of the offerings recorded in Scripture, whether by temple sacrifice, love offerings, thank offerings, or praise offerings. This giving principle is totally subjective. One must count his blessings one by one letting his heart overflow with gratitude toward YEHOVAH God and then express that love with generous offerings in His Name.

What kind of blessings would one consider? Not just your bank account or net worth, although they would be part of the picture. When considering my spiritual blessings I must take inventory of what YEHOVAH God has so generously and kindly given me. I would think of His calling, His forgiveness, the knowledge of Him, His plan, His way of life, His patience, and His Mercy -- the list would continue and be long.

And what about the many blessings in my personal life? I must savor the blessings of my wonderful wife, my marvelous children and grandchildren, my terrific friends, challenging experiences and opportunities, living in America, my comfortable home and car, my blessings of good food and health, my many deliverances from troubles -- and this list would also be long. A heart filled with gratitude toward YEHOVAH God cannot hold back from expressing itself with generosity toward God and man.

4) The blessing in the act of giving. The Messiah offers another principle of giving that is mentioned only by Paul in one of those rare red letter quotes in the book of Acts: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." [10]

Is the Messiah saying that giving produces a greater blessing than the blessing of receiving blessings? I think so. Would these greater blessings be realized personally through the profound psychological pleasure of helping or blessing someone or some ministry with our gift? Absolutely. Havenít you experienced that special joy that comes from giving? It can be a giddy thrill to see someone or some good work blessed by your hand. Can you agree with the Messiah that the goodness of this fruit is even sweeter than being on the receiving end of a gift, which is sweet indeed? Giving must give YEHOVAH God great pleasure.

If our giving itself yields a personal pleasure, do we also receive a spiritual blessing from YEHOVAH God? I think so. Giving is part of YEHOVAHís nature and when we practice it from the heart we reap His spiritual blessings. What form those blessings might take are known only to YEHOVAH, but He who sees in secret will manifest His blessing upon you openly in some way at some time where it will have its greatest impact. [11]

These dual effects of giving reminds me of the old story about cutting wood: it produces heat two ways; you get warm when you chop the tree down and split up its wood, and you get warm when you burn it in the stove. Giving is similar. You bless the recipients -- whether the needy or a ministry of the Messiah -- and you yourself are blessed by YEHOVAH God both personally, because you gave with a happy heart, and spiritually, because your generous spirit pleases Him.

Giving is an Act of Worship

The job of the ministry is not to nag people to give. Nobody likes to be nagged. It causes oneís defenses to go up against a perceived attempt to pry open a tightly clutched wallet. True Christianity is a heart religion and giving must be a willing act of the heart as part of oneís total commitment to love YEHOVAH God. It is futile talking about the needs of the church to a person with little or no spiritual commitment to YEHOVAH God.

Getting a heart for YEHOVAH God and the things of YEHOVAH God is where any discussion about giving should begin. The most memorized verse in the Bible begins, "For God so loved the world that he gaveÖ." [12] Accepting this precious gift from YEHOVAH means acknowledging insufficiency -- "I have a need." It is not easy to do -- hard, in fact -- but it is the essence of the conversion experience. Accepting gifts from YEHOVAH God must prompt a reaction on our part. It is "the goodness of God" that leads us to repentance. [13]

YEHOVAH gives his Son, offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life and what does He expect of us? He expects a response from us that is not a casual or partial commitment to Him. He expects a total commitment; all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Anything less will not be worthy.

Repentance means we have committed to become a new man in the image of the Messiah; we have dedicated ourselves to taking on the divine nature and to making the things of YEHOVAH God most important in our lives. We see ourselves, our things, and our money in a new light -- no longer our own, but belonging to our God and Savior.

With humble eyes YEHOVAHís spirit helps us see reality for what it is; YEHOVAH owns everything and has for a short spell entrusted to us some of what He owns. "The earth is the LORDís and everything in it." [14] Doesnít that include you and me and all our material things that have come forth from His earth?

The sinful woman described in Luke 7 expressed her love for the Messiah in a most earnest way by wetting his feet with her tears, kissing them, and wiping them with her hair. Yeshua said, "Her many sins have been forgiven -- for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." [15] Have YEHOVAH God and His Son done enough for us to "love much"? Should not our actions of gratitude express it?

Holding a coin, the Messiah said we are to "render to God what is Godís." [16] How does one do that? Has anyone successfully sent a tithe or offering up to YEHOVAHís heavenly throne? Does the US Postal Service deliver there? Can we say YEHOVAH God "needs" our money in any tangible way? Does YEHOVAH have bills to pay? Of course not. All giving to YEHOVAH God stays on earth and is to be directed toward those dedicated to upholding His name and proclaiming His Word (the priesthood and temple ministry in the Old Testament; the work of the Church in the New Testament), and to those among us in need.

Yet, in one sense our giving does reach heaven. To the "Gentile" soldier Cornelius YEHOVAHís angel declared, "Your prayers and gifs to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God." [17] The Messiah said that by the righteous use of earthly treasure you can "store up for yourselves treasures in heavenÖfor where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." [18]

On one occasion the Messiah planted himself next to the temple offering box to carefully observe how and how much people donated and then offered his commentary. He singled out a poor widow woman for particular praise. He noted that she gave much more proportionally than all the others. [19] Apparently even the poor can be generous toward YEHOVAH God. It should be noted that the Messiah praised this womanís giving even though she offered it to a far from perfect priesthood (some would call it corrupt) and temple administration. The Messiah and the woman both regarded her gift as given to YEHOVAH God.

Christianity is a heart religion and oneís treasure should be controlled by the heart, not the heart controlled by the treasure. The Messiah concluded one of his many discourses on money by saying, "You cannot serve both God and Money." [20]

Church, Money, and Stingy Christians

The stingy Christian doesnít think he is stingy. He is thinking his problem is paying his mortgage; let someone else be responsible for the churchís needs. Besides, heís planning to buy an RV and take a trip that will keep him broke for months. The stingy Christian doesnít want to think too much about the good works being done in YEHOVAHís name lest he feel obligated to support them.

The stingy Christian is a spectator Christian. He doesnít want to do anything himself. He just sits on the sidelines and boos, criticizes, and occasionally cheers. He likes to handicap, evaluate and critique what others are doing in the Messiahís name, but takes no active part, nor does he pursue a ministry of his own.

The Church of YEHOVAH God isnít a club with dues, it is a spiritual fellowship created by YEHOVAH God and led by His Son. It has important things to do that require all its members to take part in carrying out its work. The Body of the Messiah is diverse in its various administrations and ministries -- churches, evangelism, publishing, research, teaching, counseling, translating, ministering to all kinds of special needs, etc. All these good and noble works need money to function.

The sad fact is that most ministries are not financially prosperous. They limp along, under-funded, their workers and ministers overworked, their budgets paltry. All this in the richest most prosperous nation in world history. There is some shame here.

Just as you donít like to think of your life being all about money, you have to acknowledge that your life and your family run on money. Without money you might end up in a homeless shelter living on someone elseís money. Money has a God-given role in making the world work. It has an important role in allowing the church to carry out its commission.

One important lesson Iíve learned about money and Christians: What a person gives may have nothing to do with what he has. After interacting with thousands of Christians over many years, Iíve also learned that a Christian with a real heart for YEHOVAH God and the things of YEHOVAH God is a truly generous person -- generous toward YEHOVAH and man.

Some Closing Questions

If youíd like to be more financially committed to the ministry of the Body of the Messiah, here are some questions to consider. Ask yourself:

1) Am I helped by what I hear, see, or read from this church, TV, or radio program? Do I benefit from their magazine, literature, tapes, videos, counsel, or services? Do I identify with their mission? If you can answer "yes" to any of the above, become a generous supporter.

2) Do I agree with the overall thrust of their message and doctrine? (This does not mean agreement on every last point -- you canít expect more of a church or para-church ministry than you do from your own mate). Are they sincerely proclaiming the truth of YEHOVAH God? If you say "yes," then offer your support.

3) Do I want to see this ministry grow and continue to serve others as well as myself? If "yes," please support them.

4) Is the Body of the Messiah enriched and strengthened by the message and ministry I am presently supporting? Is it a message the entire culture should hear? If so, become even more committed and generous in your giving.

YEHOVAH God has been in the giving business longer than you and me. We would be wise to adopt His policies and enjoy His benefits. He lives by the rule of generosity. One word that could never be applied to YEHOVAH God is "stingy." We need to see to it that it doesnít fit us either.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul praised the Macedonian churches of YEHOVAH God saying,

"Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints." [21]

He called their giving an "act of grace" and counseled the Corinthians to "see that you also excel in this grace of giving." [22] Iíll let that be the final word for us.

End Notes:

[1] Rabbi Abraham Ben Isaiah and Rabi Benjamin Sharfman, The Pentateuch and Rashiís Commentary, Deuteronomy volume, Jewish Publishing Society, Philadelphia, 1977, p. 65.

[2] See Catherine Ponderís book, The Millionaires of Genesis, DeVorss & Co, Marine del Rey, CA, 1976.

[3] Matthew 19:16-22.

[4] Luke 14:25-35.

[5] 1 Corinthians 16:2.

[6] Acts 4:32-37.

[7] Acts 5:1-10.

[8] Achan was stoned for taking the Babylonish garment and silver. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, was stricken with leprosy for his covetousness and we read what happened to Ananias and Sapphria.

[9] Colossians 3:5.

[10] Acts 20:35.

[11] Matthew 6:1-4.

[12] John 3:16.

[13] Romans 2:4.

[14] Psalm 24:1

[15] Luke 7:47.

[16] Mark 12:17.

[17] Acts 10:4.

[18] Matthew 6:20-21.

[19] Mark 12:41-44

[20] Vs 24.

[21] 2 Corinthians 8:2, NIV.

[22] Vss 6, 7.

-- Edited By John D. Keyser

 

Hope of Israel Ministries -- Proclaiming the Good News of the Soon-Coming Kingdom of YEHOVAH God Here On This Earth!

Hope of Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.
www.hope-of-israel.org

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