Where Do We Get Our Money From?
Reverend Bryn MacPhail / November 24, 2002
Two men were marooned on a deserted island. One man paced back and forth, quite worried about their situation, while the other man sat back and was enjoying the sun. The first man said to the second man, ‘Aren’t you afraid of dying out here?’
‘No,’ said the second man, ‘I make $100,000 a week, and I give 10% of this to my church every Sunday . . . My Minister will find me.’
Some years ago, I was given some advice on preaching, 'Bryn, you can preach on sin, you can preach on God's wrath, and you can preach on hell, without too much consequence, but be very, very careful if you ever choose to preach about money'.
For whatever reason, people are often on the defensive when ministers preach about money.
There was a preacher who went to a farmer and asked him,
‘If you had $1,000, would you give $500 of it to the Lord?’
‘If you had two cows, would you give one of them to the Lord?’
‘If you had two pigs, would you give one of them to the Lord?’
‘Now that’s not fair! You know that I have two pigs.’
I am not sure why the subject of money is such a sensitive matter. I am thankful, however, that the Bible is not silent on the issue of giving and receiving money. In fact, the Bible contains more than two thousand references to wealth and property; this is twice as many as the total references to faith and prayer (MacArthur, Whose Money Is It Anyway?, 3).
Whether we like it, or not, the management of money is an important issue in every church. I am unable to recall the last time I attended a church meeting where money was not an issue. This is inescapable. It seems to me then, that when we come to church meetings to discuss matters of finance, it is imperative that we come equipped with a biblical perspective on money.
And, as I look to the Scripture, what I find to be our foundational principle is this: God is the rightful owner of everything. Psalm 24 declares this: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it”(Ps.24:1). The implication here is that what you own is not your own—we are merely stewards of what belongs to God.
The temptation is for us to think that the credit for what we have acquired lies primarily with us. The Bible plainly refutes this. In Deuteronomy 8:18, God tells the Israelites, “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth”. The doxology confesses the same when it says, “Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow”.
Yes, I know you work hard for your money. And yes, I realize the unique gifts of mind and body that have enabled you to earn a living. But, I ask you: Who gave you these abilities in the first place?
The Lord in His providence has made us, and has gifted us with certain abilities, which enable us to make money. So let us never lose site of this principle: God is the rightful owner of everything, and we are called to be stewards of what belongs to God.
As Paul closes his letter to the Philippians, he does so by thanking them for financial support. We learn, from verse 10, that what motivated the Philippians to give was a genuine "concern" for Paul and for his ministry. The sense here is that the Philippians supported Paul, not because they had to, but because they wanted to. It was devotion, not obligation, which motivated their generosity.
I find it interesting that, as much as this passage says a great deal about giving money, Paul labours to insist that money is not the point. Though the entire context of verses 10 through 20 is the financial contributions of the Philippians, we learn from Paul that the gift itself, is not the point.
When Paul expresses his gratitude for the gift of the Philippians, he does so with an important qualification: "not that I seek the gift itself" Paul says, "but I seek for the profit which increases on your account"(4:17).
Paul is reminding the Philippians that when they give sacrificially, there is a manner in which they are profiting. Paul wants the Philippians to know, and he wants us to know, that our God-motivated generosity is contributing to our spiritual growth.
And what we need to bear in mind is the fact that what God ultimately wants you to surrender, is not your chequebook, but you.
This was demonstrated powerfully in the life of a young Norwegian named Peter Torjesen, who was so stirred by a challenge to missionary giving that he opened his wallet and poured all of his money into the offering. Peter also included a note on which he had scribbled the words, ‘And my life too’.
Isaac Watts recognized this as well, when he penned those famous words,
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
It is also important to note how Paul describes the gift from the Philippians—he refers to it as "a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God"(4:18). No, the Philippians did not send incense or expensive perfumes to Paul—phrases like "fragrant aroma" are commonly utilized in the Old Testament to indicate that a particular act of worship was acceptable to God. Paul is explaining then, that giving money to ministry is an act of worship.
If you were to ask me why I think many churches struggle to collect needed funds, my guess is that there are many people who have yet to comprehend this. Many have yet to realize that they are not merely giving to an institution, but to God. Tell me I'm giving money to pay for Church supplies, and I will give just a little. Besides, I have many household supplies that I must purchase this month. On the other hand, tell me that God is calling me to trust Him and to demonstrate my commitment to His purposes, and I will write you a cheque that will compromise the comfort of my everyday life.
You don’t need to throw a roast beef dinner, or hold a silent auction to get me to give money to the church—you just need to remind me of that Love that will not let me go. Remind me of that great sacrifice; remind me that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, and my response will certainly be, O Lamb of God, I come!
On the basis that the Philippians are giving money to God, Paul makes the promise, "my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus"(4:19).
I dare not give you this verse out of context and promise you a life free from hardship. I dare not tell you that God will supply every kind of need to every person, for this is not what Paul is promising. The promise is qualified by the context. Paul is saying to the Philippians, 'Because you have been generous towards the ministry of the Lord, expect that the Lord will repay you according to His generosity.'
Who is this God who promises to supply all our needs? This is the God who spoke the world into existence (Gen. 1:3). This is the God who provided food and drink for a million Israelites in the desert (Ex. 15:22-16:21). This is the God who created the stars and calls them all by name (Isa. 40:26). This is the God who knows the number of hairs that are on your head (Mt. 10:30). It is this God who can supply all your needs.
And, what does Paul mean when he promises that God will supply all their needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus? Allow to explain, by way of example: There were many occasions, as a teenager living in St. Catharines, when I wanted to travel to Toronto to visit friends. When I would express this desire to my mother, she would allow me to drive this big blue Oldsmobile and I would be on my way. During my time at Ridley College, I had a roommate who also desired to travel to Toronto on occasion. My friend expressed this interest to his father, and his father promptly flew his private jet from Windsor to St. Catharines, picked him up and flew him to Toronto.
In both of these cases our ‘need’ to get to Toronto was met. My mother met my need according to her riches, and my friend's father met his need according to his riches. How great a statement is it then, to read that God does not simply supply all our needs, but He does so according to His infinite riches and glory!
It is important that our giving to the church is put into perspective. If everything belongs to God, it is a mistake to regard God as a Taker. It is wrong to view God as a demanding tyrant who always wants a bigger slice of my earnings. God is not a Taker, but a Giver. If God did not first give to us, we would be unable to give to His Church.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes our giving money to church ministry in terms of sowing seed. Paul explains how God’s promised provision does not diminish our responsibility to give generously. We are expected to sow the seed, while God promises to continually furnish us with more seed, and He promises to produce the harvest. Paul writes, "(God), who supplies seed to the sower . . . will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest"(2Cor. 9:10).
Let us not make the mistake of thinking that everything depends on us. What I hope you now see is that raising money for church ministry is a joint venture between you and God. And the benefit of giving to God's ministry is that God promises to repay you—My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches and glory.
Let us, therefore, continue to give eagerly, and cheerfully, to the work of God's kingdom. And let us expect, in faith, God's blessings overflowing. Amen.