Malachi 3 vs 6 -16a
Luke 12 vs 22 – 34
This is a kind of confession sermon and a personal reflection and journey, on my life style.
The reason I ‘confess’ publically is in case some of you here this morning are struggling with the same issue.
It has been provoked by the mood of the nation, the latest report on this churches annual accounts and the readings from Malachi and Luke.
On the 1st June this year I had an appointment which I really was not looking forward to, I had been preparing for it off and on for about a month.
The lady I had to see was my tax accountant, was coming to check though all my accounts. Some of you will realise that this is an awesome task, as most often I haven’t a clue what was spent where when or if was spent at all.
In case you are wondering why I need an accountant of any description.. I have to tell you that I am self employed and apparently that is quite complex and quite frankly I haven’t a clue about book keeping ….. apart from putting them on shelves and reading them.
But It all turned out quite well as to my great relief I was unexpectedly taken in to hospital and Lin had to phone to tell her the sad news!!
My worry of the tax man is a bit like my worry when the car goes in for an MOT.
It’s to do with ignorance, I don’t understand how the car works and I don’t understand how or rather why I NEED to spend more money than I have!!
All was well until this Monday morning when like a nightmare becoming real, I realised that I still had to submit the numbers, the return had to be completed and sent to the Inland Revenue
But the good and very necessary thing was that I was forced to look at my expenditure, where and if I could find the bank statements, bills pay slips etc.
It was then that I decided to look more carefully at my self spending so because (a) nationally we are in difficult times, (b) I had seen the report of our church accounts which are not very well at the moment, and felt that I had some responsibility to ensure I did my part to put it right And finally and especially the reading from Malachi chapter 3 vs 10 where God says
“ stop robbing me and test me !”
Am I robbing God ?
I thought I was not,
But was I giving my tithe?
I guess I was not, but how could I change that, what could I cut out, what should I not buy and ALSO not go around with a long face.??
Now that could be difficult.
Guess the first question is what is a tithe?
Simply there is no scriptural command to tithe, it began in the Old Testament when the people gave around 22% of their possessions to the Levites / priests so they could live and maintain the place of worship.
The NT gives no such demand
It seems there is a suggestion that 10 % is a more realistic guide line, but 10% of what?
Gross income, nett, after essential expenses?
I think it is unhelpful to place a guilt trip on anyone about giving.
I will give because God has given me so much, I shall give not out of compulsion but freely and as a privilege which feels like pleasure not duty.
Some could give too much and find themselves in difficulties and that is unwise , some may do the opposite .
I simply suggest that we give responsibly and not irresponsibly.
If I were to try and paraphrases, rather inadequately, Jesus’ teaching, it would be thus, to give enough so you actually know that you have given it.
Lay something aside as you do for your own needs. Perhaps giving 10% of an amount that is important to you will give you the buzz
Well back to me, what can I do to give me the joy the buzz of giving and not make me grumpy?
Apart from the standing orders for essentials, which in my case are electricity, AA, car insurance, contents insurance, and a couple of charities. Which of these could I cancel?
I guess the AA ( £80 pa) and a look at car insurance.
So this week I’m expecting a calls from RIAS and Saga, & if I reduce cover and if I pay the first £100 I could save £120 a year.
All this makes me feel a bit better.
But I need to feel a bit more better.
What more can I cut back on, I guess the charities.
I shall ask my tax lady, but I already know what she will say.
She’s very good and has looked after me for nearly 30 years, I’m one of her longest serving patrons, I have paid her a regular sum every month!!!
Perhaps I should cut her out, that would save another £180 a year.?
But she will say, cut down on what you give to your church, it’s been going for over 2000 years, and your little amount will make no difference. The money would be better off in your pocket than theirs.
I look at my bank statements, well the ones I can find, and I note there are enough statements to see a story a emerging.
Hidden in every bank statement there is another statement.
This statement reveals what is really important in my life, my priorities and values.
It’s clear that I look after myself well, my health, and security.
And I also note that these all come first, above the needs of others and God’s work.
The responsibility of the preacher is that they live what they preach..
God has always provided for me and mine, through the abundant generosity of the people in this church.
And I do believe that it is God working though them. I believe this because I have never received any kind of generous financial gift from my bank , from any building society, any money lender, or any insurance company .
But from God’s people I have received more than I ever expected.
God actually invites us to test his word. “Bring your whole tithe and I will bless you so much that you will not be able to contain it.”
This is so much easier to say, and so much harder to do?
BUT I would like to give you/ us the opportunity to test this, to do this ..
Give your full tithe, what ever that may be, just for one month, and if any of you find that you are without something you need or your circumstances become worse, because of your giving to God, take it all back by NOT giving until you have made up your loss, no one will ever know.
I will tell my tax lady, Muriel, that actually good stewardship is not about careful accounting and skimping and saving for something that might never happen, or a retirement I may never see.
Giving is about generosity, it’s about believing God and trusting His people
I can give to ensure that when I am gone there is still a church here to proclaim the old old story.
That this generation hears the Gospel and Jesus Christ.
I do not want to rob God nor a future generation.
Giving is about rendering to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Gods.
It is knowing who my provider is, and whom my Redeemer is.
I need to continue to give and give more when necessary and trust that God will be faithful to His word and that He will bless us so much that we shall not be able to contain His blessing.