Giving and Harvest

Speaker: Pastor Darin Browne

Pentecost was harvest time for the Israelites, a time of great blessing. I remember filming people harvesting in northern India, and despite it being hard work, they were so joyous and happy. Harvest means income, it means food, it means blessings, and for the Jews, they were instructed to leave some of the harvest for the poor. Blessing, and giving.

Leviticus 19:9-10 (ESV)
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

Giving generously is an essential part of the Christian life, in fact it is a spiritual gift, and I know many here practice giving and are very generous. I personally try to be as generous as possible, with my money and my time, but I know many people who just think the church is only after their money! Well today, we are going to disprove that as we give towards the needs of those in our church community.

GOD DOESN’T WANT YOUR MONEY, HE WANTS YOUR HEART

Let’s get this straight, God does not want or need your money. He owns everything and is creator of all. He lavishes good gifts upon His people.

Psalms 50:10 (ESV)
For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.

So, this idea that the church wants your money is totally wrong. God doesn’t want your money, but He does want your heart, and when you ask Jesus into your life, you can also trust Him to care for you, whatever life throws at you.

But clearly, we earn or are given money, and we are responsible for what we do with said money. We can blow it on the pokies or give to a friend in need. We can give it to the church or eat out at the RSL. What we do with our money is always our choice, but as with every choice, there are consequences.

WHERE DOES YOUR MONEY COME FROM?

Before we look at some giving principles, we must stop and ask the question, where does your money come from? Bank, boss, sales, Centrelink, NDIS, but where really? You might have a successful job or business, or you might be on a pension. Whatever your income, we must recognise the source of our material provision and blessing. It all comes from God. No matter how talented or successful you might be, it all comes from the Lord.

James 1:17 (ESV)
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.

When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they also placed their prosperity into the hands of the Lord. In Egypt, the life-giving waters of the Nile were pumped by foot pumps to irrigate the fields.

Deuteronomy 11:10 (ESV)
For the land that you are entering to take possession of it is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and irrigated it, like a garden of vegetables.

But Moses says this about their new home…

Deuteronomy 11:11-12 (ESV)
But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, a land that the LORD your God cares for. The eyes of the LORD your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

GOD BRINGS WEALTH

The Israelites recognised that their wealth ultimately comes from God…

Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV)
You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

So, our money, our wealth, comes from the Lord, so it is not really our money, we steward it, and when we give to the work of the Lord, we really just return what is His anyway. Now, given that all wealth comes from God, let’s look at some principles of giving.

PRINCIPLES OF GIVING

1: GIVING INDICATES WHERE YOUR HEART IS FOCUSSED

Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Your attitude towards money is a good indicator of what you are focussing on, and where your heart is. Every mature Christian I know is generous, because they recognise, they cannot out give God. It is practical way of showing God’s love to each other. James even says this…

1 John 3:17-18 (ESV)
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Stingy Christians are immature Christians, whether you’ve been in church five minutes or all your life.

2: GIVING EXPRESSES YOUR FAITH

James 2:15-17 (ESV)
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

All the good sentiment in the world cannot make up for giving to care for others. I find that God stretches my faith by stirring me up to give and be generous. In a month’s time we will be having a first fruits offering for the work of Ignite church. It will go towards renovations, missions, and so on. But today, we are asking you to consider giving to help the less fortunate in our own church community, and to do so in faith.

People say to me, you and Fiona give so much at Ignite, and Lily House, but there’s always more room for generosity by faith, and God loves to see us exercise our faith!

3: GIVING TENDS TO BE RECIPROCATED BY GOD

Please understand, I’m not preaching the blab it and grab it prosperity movement. I am not saying that if you want to be rich, call my 1800 number and give me loads of money. All I am saying is that, in my experience, and in Scripture, you cannot out give God.

Luke 6:38 (ESV)
give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

I like to use a sizeable measure, a dump truck instead of a thimble, because that’s how God blesses me back. Some years back Fiona and I lost everything, including our home, and had debts of a million dollars. In the midst of that trauma, we consciously decided to test this Biblical principle out, so when we had nothing, we still prioritised giving.

Philippians 4:19 (ESV)
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

God has access to all riches, so we can trust Him to meet every need, to even lavish His great blessing upon us. It is a Biblical principle, and a principle we often see illustrated in the lives of those around us, that generous people tend to attract more wealth, while stingy people often lose their wealth.

Proverbs 11:24-25 (ESV)
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

4: GIVING IS A WAY OF TESTING GOD’S PROMISES

Matthew 4:7 (ESV)
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Interestingly, while Jesus said not to put the Lord your God to the test, there is one occasion where God Himself challenges us to test Him, and that’s in the area of giving.

Malachi 3:10 (ESV)
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 windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

Fiona and I took up God’s challenge, and He is right now prospering us and restoring financial blessings long lost. If you haven’t got much money and are struggling today, take up the challenge and test God. Decide to tithe, and I believe you will find Him faithful. Paul writes about believers from Macedonia, how they gave generously even when they were poor…

2 Corinthians 8:2 (ESV)
for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

5: GIVING SHOULD BE SECRET

We should not give to big note ourselves but keep our generosity between us and God.

Matthew 6:1-4 (ESV)
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Our generosity will be rewarded, but let it be rewarded in heaven, not by the praise of men.

6: GIVING MAKES US WILLING TO EARN MORE

When we have a generous Spirit, God just seems to multiply His provision and blessing for us, and I want to earn more so I can bless more people. I can attest to this, so you will usually find me the first to bless others. Paul wrote

Acts 20:35 (ESV)
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

7: GIVING SHOULD BE A CRACK UP!

Heard about a guy who earned just $300 dollars a week, and he felt he had to tithe, that is give 10%. Later he came to the pastor saying he can’t keep it up, because he was so successful that he now earned $2000 a week, and $200 for God was just too much. The pastor bowed his head and prayed. The man asked, are you praying to get me out of this tithing thing? The pastor replied, no, I’m asking the Lord to drop your income back to $300 so you can tithe without complaining.

2 Corinthians 9:6 (ESV)
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

It is a clear principle that God blesses those who bless others. We should see our wealth as a means of blessing those who have need, and consider it a privilege, not a burden, and not an imposition. Don’t ask me how it works, because giving is counter-intuitive, but if you want to be blessed financially by God, have a generous Spirit. Some of you feel you don’t have enough money to give, but time is something you can afford to give. Just be generous with it all, money, time, possessions, everything, and because God is faithful, watch Him miraculously provide.

Giving is like a farmer sowing. A wise farmer doesn’t sell or eat his entire crop but keeps some to replant. He throws it into the ground. Some would say he has wasted it, but he knows he has invested it. And the more bountifully he sows, the more ultimately, he reaps.

2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV)
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

The Greek word for cheerful is HILAROS, from which we get hilarious. Giving should be way beyond cheerful, it should be a crack up, absolutely hilarious. Giving is super fun!

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 (ESV)
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

TODAY WE CELEBRATE PENTECOST BY GIVING

So today we are going to receive a harvest offering. We have one big offering a year, and that’s coming up in a month’s time, but this is something new. This is us giving directly to help those who are struggling in our fellowship. This is the time of Pentecost, which is the time of harvest. Jewish farmers reaped the harvest God supplied because of their hard work, diligence and faith. And this is the instruction given to the early Jews…

Leviticus 19:9-10 (ESV)
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

What a hilarious joy, what a blessing, to give and to trust God for the results.

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