Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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33. The Truth about Taking – Part 3

Exodus 20:15- “You must not steal.”

Malachi 3:8-14

“Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease.[a] Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 13 “You have said terrible things about me,” says the Lord. “But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against you?’ 14 “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the Lord of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins?

It’s not just stealing from others that has an impact on our relationships but also:

  1. STEALING FROM GOD

A. Responsibilities

Not only can we steal from each other, but we can also steal from God! Usually those who have no problem taking from God will have less a problem taking from others. Because if we are willing to be irresponsible in our relationship with God there is a good possibility that we will be irresponsible in our relationship with others. The same Israel that kept back their tithes from God had also learned to take advantage of one another and the whole nation was under a curse as a result. Because Israel as a people had withheld or misused their tithes the temple of God was empty and could not meet anyone’s needs, so people resorted to stealing in order to meet their own needs. Worship had no meaning because there was no sacrifice made by the one who claimed to be a worshipper. Without sacrifice there is no value! But a giving Church is a powerful Church regardless of the size of the congregation or the collection. It’s not about the size of the gift but the heart of the giver. Do you know of any churches composed entirely of givers? Dr. Hugh McKean of Chiengmai, Thailand, tells of a church of four hundred members where every member tithes. They receive a weekly wage of forty stangs (less than twenty cents] and their rice. Of this meager existence, each gives a tenth every week. Because of this, they have done more for Christ in Thailand than any other church. They pay their own preacher and have sent two missionary families to spread the gospel in a community cut off from the outside world. They are intensely interested in all forms of Christian work, especially work for unfortunates of every kind; and their gifts for this kind of work are large. They have not only accepted Christ, but, having found Him good, they are making Him known to others. Oh, by the way, this church of all tithers is also a church of all lepers, every person has leprosy. These lepers were touched by the love of a man who took God’s gift of being a medical doctor and became a missionary to lepers. He taught them the lesson of loving which involves the gift of giving. But when we keep back from God, He is not able to bless us so that the less we give, the less we have as an individual and as a nation. Instead of being a blessing and helping they end up hurting. It has always been the nations who are most generous that are most blessed, a characteristic of our country in times past, and based on the Judeo Christian ethic that our country was founded on. As a nation moves away from God its blessings tend to decline, proof of the principle found here in Malachi. We carry a responsibility before God to honor Him with what is His, even Jesus said to “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s” Matthew 22:21 clearly a reference to both taxes and tithes. Rather than getting ahead, Israel actually became poorer when they failed to honor God with their tithes, the act of stealing had really robbed them of blessings. What about you, have you ever defrauded the Deity by withholding your tithe of treasure or time? Many of us try to cheat Christ by giving Him our leftovers instead of our lives. So often we approach tithing based on the amount instead of the Almighty. And so, we make it about the percent instead of the person. We give based on a formula instead of faith. When we do our giving is based on our head and not our heart. But tithing is not an intellectual decision but rather our love for the Lord. It revolves around relationship not rules. God loves a cheerful giver not a calculated giver. When we give instead of asking how much of my money am I going to give we need to ask how much of Gods money are we I going to keep.

B. Rewards

God honors givers, for the ultimate giver is God Himself, and when we give, we reflect His grace. This is what Israel failed to understand, that by keeping back their tithes they not only robbed God, but they ruined their own welfare and their witness. Instead of being a light for the Lord they become a testimony to selfishness and Satan. Stealing from God does not just impact us in the material realm however, the greatest losses are spiritual. Israel had become a “me first” nation, not unlike what we are seeing in our own society today as we move away from God. The more the people kept from God the more God kept from them. They were missing out on great rewards, and not just materially, their nation was missing out on a reputation of being called a “blessed nation” by all the other nations. They were missing out on being a shining lighthouse to the world. In this way they were losing the opportunity to give witness to God’s grace. God’s presence is reflected in the life of givers. When we honor God, our hearts will be full, and the rewards will be greater than just material in scope. Because God will give what money can’t buy or satisfy, God will fill your life. While money can fill the bank it won’t fill your tank because it doesn’t satisfy the soul. Giving to God results in joy, trust, and even the witness of others who find Christ as a result of our gift. Is giving to God a joy or a job for you? Those who give to God for all the rights reasons bring a joy to others as well as themselves. This is illustrated so well in the life of one missionary to Africa. There was a knock on the door of the hut occupied by a missionary in Africa. Answering, the missionary found one of the native boys holding a large fish in his hands. The boy said, “Reverend, you taught us what tithing is, so here–I’ve brought you my tithe.” As the missionary gratefully took the fish, he questioned the young lad. “If this is your tithe, where are the other nine fish?” At this, the boy beamed and said, “Oh, they’re still back in the river. I’m going back to catch them now.” We cannot expect God’s richest blessings on us or our nation if we rob Him of our tithes and offerings. But look at verse 10 and see what God promises to those who trust Him with their tithe” “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in!” You can’t out give God. But we don’t give to get we give because we love God. What about you, does your life reflect one of giving or taking?

 


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32. The Truth about Taking – Part 2

Exodus 20:15- “You must not steal.”

Ephesians 4:28 – “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.”

After seeing the 3 ways of getting anything in life, by gift, by work and by stealing we now see how taking affects our:

A. Relationships

Because all relationships are built on trust, theft undermines and destroys the foundation of our relationships because it trashes trust. But it’s not just the physical things that we take which ruin relationships. We can steal someone’s good name, we can steal someone’s relationship with others but with each type of theft we leave ourselves and others empty instead of full. Instead of getting we actually gut ourselves and others.  No thief ever feels satisfied, and they are left with less not more. Stealing doesn’t profit us it poisons us because while we may gain physically, we lose socially and spiritually. While it might temporarily boost our bank account it leaves our hearts bankrupt. The recklessness of stealing has a way of coming back in negative ways not just on those we steal from but on us. When we steal a good name through gossip, it causes us to become people that others won’t share with or spend time with. It trashes trust and ends up ruining our reputation not just theirs.  Instead of gaining we lose and experience the loneliness of relational isolation. Stealing always causes us to draw the short straw. This is illustrated so well in the following true story from our dim-witted criminals department: A man walked into a convenience store, put a $20 bill on the counter and asked for change. When the clerk opened the drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving his $20 bill on the counter. So how much did he get from the drawer? Fifteen bucks. Go figure. We never really get ahead through theft, what we leave behind is our self-respect and broken trust from others. Judas is a good example, the Scriptures say that he regularly helped himself to the treasury of the disciples John 12:6, He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”Not only did he lose his own self-respect, evidenced in taking his own life, but he also lived a miserable life of guilt before this. Thieves are never happy people, often they are the first to worry about people stealing for its always at the forefront of their mind.

B. Recklessness

When we even excuse the small ways we steal, whether taking answers from someone else’s test in school to taking home office supplies that your company paid for we not only hurt ourselves but all society. Stealing is strictly a reckless activity for all, and all are diminished by it! Taking shortcuts, which is the essence of theft, may appear to bless us, but instead of helping it only hurts us. As we see in the story of John Smith. He was a loyal carpenter, working for a very successful building contractor who called him into his office one day and said, “John, I’m putting you in charge of the next house we build. I want you to order all the materials and oversee the whole job from the ground up.” John accepted the assignment with great enthusiasm and excitement. For ten days before ground was broken at the building site, John studied the blueprints. He checked every measurement, every specification. Suddenly he had a thought. “If I am really in charge,” he said to himself, “why couldn’t I cut a few corners, use less expensive materials, and put the extra money in my pocket? Who would know the difference? Once the house is painted, it will look just great.” So, John set about his scheme. He ordered second-grade lumber, but his reports indicated that it was top-grade. He ordered inexpensive concrete for the foundation, put in cheap wiring, and cut every corner he could, yet he reported the purchase of much better materials. When the home was completed and fully painted, he asked the contractor to come and see it. “John,” said the contractor, “what a magnificent job you have done! You have been such a good and faithful carpenter all these years that I have decided to show my gratitude by giving you this house you have built, as a gift!” While everything might have looked good on the outside John knew the truth of what was really on the inside. Like the subpar concrete that soon would crumble John’s character revealed some serious cracks. So, what about you are there any areas in your life where your tempted to take short cuts to try and get ahead? In the end it’s like the old game of snakes and ladders, we might feel like we are climbing the ladder to success but in truth we end up spend more time sliding backwards on the backs of those slipper snakes.