11/17/02, Tithing Sermon
the whole tithe into the storehouse,
Two men crashed their small airplane on an uncharted deserted island. One of the men brushed himself off and then proceeded to run all over the island looking for help. When he returned, he rushed up to the other man and screamed, "This Island is uninhabited, there is no food, and there is no water. We are going to die!" The other man calmly leaned back against the fuselage of the wrecked plane and responded, "No we're not, I make three million dollars a year." The other man grabbed his friend and shook him. "Listen, we are on an uninhabited island. We are going to die!" The other man, unruffled, again responded. "No, I make three million a year." Mystified, the first man, taken aback with such an answer again repeated, "For the last time, I'm telling you we ARE doomed. There is NO one else on this island!"
Still unfazed, the first man looked the other in the eyes and said, "Do not make me say this again. I make three million a year and I tithe My Pastor will find me!"
My beloved predecessor, Dr. Pierce Harris, used to say, "I love to preach on money; I love to see the stingy squirm and I love to see the loyal smile!" Well, we've started this tithing sermon with most of you smiling.
Actually, smiling faces may just be the greatest benefit of tithing. I have come to feel that the best part of being a Christian is the abiding joy that He gives me through all the things that happen to me. Not that everything that happens in funny. Sometimes we can't even look on the sunny side; but, God's blessing of a constant deep inner joy is not dependant upon outward circumstances. Terrible things happen to awfully good people sometimes, but through Christ we can never escape that abiding awareness of joy. And, one of the most fulfilling joys of our life in Christ is returning to God's Church ten-percent of the great abundance that He regularly pours out on us.
One of the main reasons that we chose a tithing theme for our annual financial campaign to raise pledges for our 2003 church budget is to share this great spiritual secret of joy with the entire church. Of course, we also need to remind ourselves that our church program requires the very best from each of us. Great things are being done through this great church and it is worthy of your tithe.
Our life in Christ is essentially a quest for more of Him. We study, we learn, we come to experience victory, we worship and feel His presence within. We learn how to give of our time, talents and tithe. Some of us can be grateful that we were taught tithing as children. My Aunt Frances tells about growing up in poverty in rural Alabama. Her mother told her that if she would milk one of the cows that she could sell the milk. She sold her first bottle for a dime and was so proud. As she was on the way to church on the first day of the week her mother reminded her, "Now honey, remember to put your tithe in the church offering plate when it is passed." Frances tells of the great pride that she felt putting a penny into the offering. She felt like she owned a small part of God's Church.
God has ordained a systematic method for us to give to meet the needs of our church and its mission. Tithing was instituted in the Old Testament so that the Levites, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, could be freed from outside work and could maintain the Temple. The others supported it with their tithe.
Tithing was continued in the early Christian Church and has continued in much of the modern church and has been a major part of Methodism. Church members giving 10% has been a grand part of Southern culture. Still today, churches below the Mason-Dixon line out give those in other areas. This higher level of local church giving has enabled our churches to grow and reach out to others with the Good News of Salvation and with the cup of cold water for those in need. This higher percentage of tithers has led to a more joyful experience of faith in southern churches. We simply have more smiling faces than squirmier.
Our text, from the last book of the Old Testament, not only calls for us to bring the tithe in, but it also challenges us to test God's plan and see whether or not He will pour out blessings to us until they overflow. Of course, our motive is to not simple get more by giving more, but the testimony of everyone who tithes is that it seems that they have more money with 90% to pay bills, than they used to have with the 100%. Some of it may be because their desire for the things of this world are less and that their life is centered more around church programs and activities, but the great joy of God's presence, guidance and assurance cannot be bought with any amount of money. Many of you have shared with me that the greatest joy in your life over the years has been this great church. This is where you have loved, learned and lived much of your days. You have taken great pride in our mutual efforts to keep alive our dream for resurgence in our beloved church. You can not imagine doing anything to trip up our chance to revive the hope of, not just surviving in the Center City, not just getting by, but of having hope that our best years are yet to be.
You who are here today have, in the main, been very loyal to your church. Of course, there have been some to not catch hold of the dream. As the oldest church in Atlanta we naturally have many members who are homebound and some who are inactive. Many of them love their church and all want to still be on our membership roll, but for one reason or another cannot attend. Some of them mail in their offerings and probably many are tithers. Some few have remained on the rolls but have become somewhat less than loyal. If they were here they would not be smiling. Some have lost their joy and sometimes seem to want the rest of us to lose our joy too. Yet, we march forward with hope and vision. We shall prevail because God is on our side, and we have a loyal band who desires the very best for our church. We have experienced God's promise of overflowing blessings and we would not take a chance on losing it.
The most basic way that we can express our loyalty is with our presence and with our tithe.
For the next few weeks, as we move through our Great American Celebration of Thanksgiving and into our Christmas Season of Giving, we will focus much of our music, worship, and preaching around the themes of gratitude and sharing as we make an effort to encourage more of us to begin tithing in 2003. It is TIME TO TITHE to keep our church alive!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor