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Now let's turn in our Bibles to 2 Corinthians chapter 8, and as I said, we're starting this morning a new series which will be a short series on 'The Grace of Giving', and this will be the first study 'Its Biblical Basis'. Now as many of you are aware we have a building project just across the street here, and I think it's important at times like this when there is an exercise needed among God's people, to realise our responsibilities from scripture. I make no apology for touching and dealing with this subject at such a time, for there could be no better time as this one to remind you of your responsibilities as an assembly. And if the offerings go up by 1000 pounds per week, I can guarantee you that I'll not be getting that thousand pounds - just in case any of you think that I'm wanting more money!

Giving is a subject little preached on, and probably not in the top ten of requested sermon titles from the pew!

So verse 1 of chapter 8 in 2 Corinthians, Paul says: "Moreover, brethren, we do you to know of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia". Now just to fill you in, because some of these verses are quite difficult to read let alone understand - Paul is now exhorting the Corinthians to be liberal in their giving to needs that there are in the churches, and he is citing the example of the Macedonians, as to how they gave liberally to other's needs. Verse 2: "How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.  Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" - and we'll finish our reading just there at verse 9.

The grace of giving: its Biblical basis. Now, giving is a subject little preached on, and probably not in the top ten of requested sermon titles from the pew! Preachers don't deal with it too much, and congregations don't like it dealt with too much either. There, I think, are a number of reasons we could cite why Christians generally have hang-ups with regards to talking about money, especially from the pulpit. One hang-up could be that they don't want to seem that they're living or talking about things in a way contrary to the warnings of Scripture, which tell us that the love of money is the root of all evil, which tell us that we cannot serve God and mammon or money or material things - and therefore, because we know it is a sin to worship materials and finance, we shy away from talking about it at all. We don't want to be misunderstood as being mercenaries, begging for money, especially when we consider the charismatic movement in our world today - and if any of you have 'the God Channel', I would warn you to be careful what you watch, but many of those on the God Channel and such charismatic so-called Christian TV channels are always begging for money. It amounts to no more than financial fraud of their followers, disgraceful escapades of false prophets who are making a profit.

We are told to beware, Peter tells us of those who 'through covetousness shall with vain words make merchandise of you, whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not'. It was a charismatic teacher I am told, I wasn't at the meeting, who recently visited the Kings Hall - she's on the radio quite a lot - and for the first hour or so of her meeting she talked about nothing but money. What she had to sell, the money that they needed to raise in order to rent the building for that particular evening: money, money, money. Because of that many of us shy away from the subject. Neither do we want to transgress the principle that God has told us that His eye is upon the sparrow. God takes care of the little sparrow in the air, therefore God will take care of us. He clothes the lilies of the field more than Solomon in all his glory, therefore we are afraid that in looking for money and in talking about money, that in some way we are transgressing this principle that should be the principle of the disciple of Christ of total and utter dependence upon God alone by faith. Not going to others for our need, not looking to the Gentile world for our need, but going to God alone.

We don't want to look as if we're transgressing total dependence in faith upon God, and we certainly do not want to look as if we are charging for the gospel...

Certainly we don't want to be mercenary, we don't want to transgress the Scriptures that talk about love of money and the worship of mammon, and we don't want to be misunderstood as getting involved with begging for money like charismatic financial frauds. We don't want to look as if we're transgressing total dependence in faith upon God, and we certainly do not want to look as if we are charging for the gospel - and we must never ever get to the stage where we're asking for people to pay 10 pounds for a ticket to hear the gospel! Yet in all these things, which I have sympathy with, many of them, the Scriptures which no one could accuse of being mercenary or money-minded, are not afraid to lay financial responsibility squarely and fairly at the feet of God's people. If you read the Scriptures in even a casual reading you will see that that is so, and therefore we ought not to be afraid to talk about it. No one could accuse us from this pulpit of continually talking about money, but for the next four weeks or so we will be talking about such, because we have a need, and I believe it is scriptural that God's people should be aware of the need and be exercised by the Spirit of God through the word of God to meet that need - and that need should be met no other way.

Dr Adam Clarke once preached on 'Whosoever will let him take of the water of life freely', from Revelation 22 and verse 17. At the conclusion he announced an offering, and afterwards a lady asked him: 'How can you reconcile the freeness of the water of life with the collection at the close?'. 'Oh madam', he answered, 'God gives the water without money, but you must pay for the waterworks, for the pipes, and for the pitchers which convey the water'. Isn't that the fact? The water of life is free, and praise God for that, and we must always guard that - but there is a need, and a responsibility upon God's people, not only to give to God in their stewardship with regards to time - and that is so, we could take a series on that alone, energies, the work that we must do, putting our shoulders to the plough, ploughing God's furrows in the world's field. But our responsibility is also upon our resources, and there are financial responsibilities - yes, requirements - of the disciple of Jesus Christ.

Now we're going to look at many verses over the next four weeks or so, but I think the most explicit teaching in the Scriptures is in 2 Corinthians chapter 8 where Paul instructs the Corinthian church regarding giving by citing the beautiful example of the Macedonian church's giving. He begins in verse 1, if you look at it, talking about the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia. So right away he links this word 'grace' with the giving of the Christian - and that's why I've titled this series 'The Grace of Giving'. If you look further down the verses he uses this phrase five times, in verse 4 he mentions the privilege - in the Authorised it says: 'Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift'. That word 'gift' is literally the word for grace 'charis'. He uses the word 'charon' in this verse as well. In verse 6 he uses the phrase 'this act of grace' - 'You', at the end of it, 'You the same grace', the margin says 'gift' again, but it's the word 'grace' also - the act of grace, 'charon' in Greek. Verse 7: 'Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also'. It is the word 'charity', the giving of grace. Verse 9, look at it: 'For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus', 'charon' again.

I want you to see that grace is the foundation of giving right throughout the whole Bible...

So in just these few verses Paul repeats this word 'grace' five times in the context of the believers giving financially to each other. So he's telling us giving is a matter of grace from beginning to end, and we'll see that right throughout the whole Scriptures this morning as we look at its biblical basis - but I want you to understand this: giving is not an obligation to the child of God alone. Yes, it is a responsibility, but it is meant to be a blessing! I wonder do we see it like that?

I'm not going to give you too much challenge or exhortation today, I just want to lay a foundation for the next couple of weeks in our studies. I want you to see that grace is the foundation of giving right throughout the whole Bible - now I know we separate Old and New Testaments, and say that the Old is law and the New is grace, and to a certain extent that is true - but grace giving has had a basis right from the very beginning, even in the Old Testament. I want you to see this, because to understand New Testament grace giving you need to understand the Old Testament grace giving, and there's a lot of confusion about today as to what God actually required of His children in the Old Testament, and indeed what He requires of us today. Most people think, 'Oh, the Old Testament Jews had to give a tithe, they had to give a tenth of their earnings - 10 percent - and therefore that's what God wants of us today, a tenth, 10 percent'. Maybe that's what you give of your earnings? Can I just say to you: that is a woeful misconception not only of grace giving, but of giving in the Old Testament, because God did not require a tenth of the ancient Jewish people - that is incorrect.

We shall see that this morning, in fact, actually when you study the Old Testament you find that there were multiple mandatory giving requirements in Israel which came to considerably more than just 10 percent. Let me show you these, because I know people are sceptical about some of the things I come off with at times, and you're well to be such because you've to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so. But let us look at the first one, you don't have to turn to it, if you wish you can, Numbers 18 - we find there what is called the Lord's tithe, the Lord's tithe, or the Levite's tithe. It was in order to support the priestly ministry within the tabernacle and later within the temple. Now it's cited for you in Numbers 18, but one reading I want you to look at is Leviticus 27. Turn with me to that, Leviticus 27 verse 30: 'And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD's', the Lord's tithe, 'it is holy unto the LORD'.

So 10 percent of everything that you owned, all the people's produce of their animals, livestock, was given to the Levites to support them. They had to be fed, they had to be kept, they had to wear clothing, they had to have a place of at least some comfort to live in. This was supplied by a tithe, a tenth, from the people, which was called the Lord's tithe - and there was no option about it, this was not grace giving, this was law. A man who did not pay it was robbing God. I know there's a whole lot of people that rob the state, but they're not robbing God - they are sinning against God, but in the Old Testament to not give this tenth of a tax for the Levite was robbing God. Now let me show you this, turn with me to Malachi chapter 3 - I'm going to make your fingers work this morning...there's not too many pages you not know where Malachi is? Malachi chapter 3, at the end of your Old Testament, and this is what God says to His people in verse 8 of chapter 3: 'Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings' - it refers to the Lord's tithe: you're not giving what's mandatory.

A tenth...that is a woeful misconception not only of grace giving, but of giving in the Old Testament, because God did not require a tenth of the ancient Jewish people - that is incorrect...

Now mark this please: for an Old Testament child of God, an Israelite, it was mandatory to give the Lord's tithe - 10 percent, no bones about it. But you see, where many fall down is this: this was not the only tithe that they had to give. In fact, there is an additional initial 10 percent, which is a second tithe which was called the 'festival tithe' - you find that in Deuteronomy chapter 12. We'll not turn to it, but this tithe took effect, it was said prophetically, when Israel would get into the promised land - they were to celebrate the fact that God had delivered them from Egypt, the type of sin, and brought them into the promised land of Canaan. They were to join in a celebration which would become an annual celebration, feasting, family together, friends and servants would all join together in a feast to celebrate what the Lord had done. That was the festival tithe, necessary to pay for those annual religious feasts within the society of the Jews.

So the Lord's tithe that we mentioned first was to perpetuate the ministry of the Levite; and this second tithe, the festival tithe, was to build religious celebration and mutual community among the Jewish people. The two tithes together comprised...what? Twenty percent! Twenty percent already, and I say, a mandatory twenty percent upon God's people - that's quite an economic bite, you would say, isn't it? But there's more - you say 'Don't go on any further!' - there is more: there's the poor tithe, Deuteronomy 14 verse 28 and 29. It commands a third tithe to be given - now it was given only every three years, so it's not a tenth out of your wage every year, but a tenth out of your wage every three years, which comes to 3.3 percent per annum. So this adds another 3 percent, and it's self-explanatory: it's for the poor, it's a sort of welfare, a social tax in order to supply for those who can't look after themselves within the society.

Now, if you're adding up what does it come to now? 10, 10, 3 - 23 percent per year, every year. Now those are the mandatory tithes: one to fund the priesthood, two to fund national feasts, three to aid the poor - and you might say: 'Enough! I've hardly got anything left for myself!'. Well, there's more - Leviticus 19:9-10, people were also charged to refrain from harvesting the corner of their fields. You got the plough out at harvest time, and you took the - maybe it wasn't the plough, what is it? Whatever they cut down the wheat with anyway, I'll have to ask my father-in-law! They cut it down and they take it all into harvest, but they weren't allowed to harvest the corners of the field, they weren't allowed to pick grapes from the vineyard because they had to leave the gleaning for the poor. Those corners were left for the poor as well, and in addition to that mentioned in Leviticus 19 there are other taxes that were to be given from time to time, such as the tax of the third of a shekel - that came in later in Israel's history, which was to pay for the materials, the provisions for the temple offerings, you can read about that in Nehemiah 10.

So added to this Lord's tithe for the priests, added to the festival tithe for the celebrations, the poor tithe for a social welfare tax for the poor, is the temple tithe - the tithe and tax of a third of a shekel, for the things that would go into the temple - and then there's an additional poor tithe of the corners of the fields and the fruit of the fields that you're not allowed to pluck from. Why am I telling you all this? Well, here it is, the bottom line was this: God's people were required - now required - to give a bottom line of a minimum of 25 percent of their earnings per year, not a tenth! Several that it? No! You say, 'What Bible are you reading?' - well, grace giving started in the Old Testament. That is what they were required to give, and then the Lord comes after this 25 percent and leaves it open, an option for men and women not to give what they have to give but to give from their heart, what they want to give! Grace giving - an offering that is not required.

We read in Numbers 18 of the firstfruit offerings, which an Israelite could give to God out of love for Him. In other words, he brought the firstfruit of his crops at the harvest time and he offered it to God, the firstfruits of his livestock were given to God. The beautiful thing about this was that he did this when he had not yet harvested the rest of the crop for himself. So he was giving to God, ultimately, before he knew whether he had enough for himself! He was giving the best to God before anybody else. Oh, I wonder do we do that with our earnings? Is God left with the leftovers? Is God left the lamb with the blemish, with the spot; the lamb that is crippled? That's not love giving, grace giving - he gave the best to God, now he didn't have to, but he wanted to, and he was trusting God by faith that God would supply his need whatever the rest of that need was. It was faith giving, and it was totally involuntary.

The people were so liberal in their giving in the Old Testament that God had to tell Moses: 'Tell them to stop! There's too much!'. I've never had that problem, I must say...

That wasn't all the grace giving there was in the Old Testament. There was what's called the freewill offering - offerings that God called for when he commanded Moses to build the tabernacle, and you can read about that in Exodus 25 verses 1 and 2. There's nothing specified within it except that it had to be voluntary, and it had to be from the heart. It wasn't mandatory, it wasn't required, but if you were going to do it you had to do it right. Now turn with me for a moment to Exodus 36, because I want to show you an astounding fact. Now we can be awful hard on the Israelites at times, can't we? Oh, we hammer them left, right and centre for wandering around in the wilderness - but here's a lesson that we can take from them even in the midst of their sinful backsliding. Moses asks for these gifts that are not mandatory, that are freewill offerings, and in chapter 36 of Exodus, verse 5 we read: 'And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the LORD commanded to make. And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing. For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much'!

They had given the Lord's tithe, 10 percent; they had then given the festival tithe, another 10 percent; they had given a third tithe every three years, which came once a year to 3.3 percent; then many of them would have given grace giving and the firstfruits offering - and now God says: 'Well, I have a tabernacle here to build, and I need things for it, and I want you to make things out of the freewill of your heart, through love, voluntarily from your hearts'. The people were so liberal in their giving in the Old Testament that God had to tell Moses: 'Tell them to stop! There's too much!'. I've never had that problem, I must say.

When a heart overflows with grace giving, even an Old Testament heart - no matter what dispensation you want to put him in - a substantial amount of that love pours out to God in the giving of the income that we have financially. Now, we must move on because although grace giving started in the Old Testament, it really finds its fruition in the New. As we noted, we want to look now at the grace giving in the New Testament: Paul began his discussion of grace giving by holding this high example of the impoverished Macedonians abounding, astoundingly in their giving. Verses 1 and 2, these Macedonian were in verse 2 'in a great trial of affliction'; they were in 'deep poverty'. Now that word 'deep poverty' in verse 2 is the word in the Greek from which we derive our English word 'bathysphere' - now if you don't know what the bathysphere is, ships are used to probe the 'bathos', which is the very depths of the ocean that no man humanly speaking can scale. So that is what the bathysphere is - it's the depths of the sea - Paul is saying these people were in the depths of poverty, like the fathomless ocean beneath the surface.

The Greek scholar Alfred Plummer translates this: 'They give out of their deep-down-to-depth poverty' - now they were poor! Some of you maybe count yourself as poor, but if you cast your mind back 50, 60, 70, 80 years - we are not poor in comparison, relatively speaking. Look at two-thirds of the world - we are not poor, although we struggle, we all struggle - well, most of us do. But the fact of the matter is that these folks were down to depth poverty, 'bathos' poverty - they had hardly anything to give whatsoever. One author has said: 'Today we fancy ourselves poor if we have to think twice before going out to dinner'. He's an American, he says: 'The American way today is the credit card, buying things you do not need, with money you do not have, to impress people you do not like' - but it was not so with the Macedonian Christians.

We have to give as the Lord has prospered us - but let that not be a cloak in any way for us to get out of the fact that the Scriptures lay down the fact that in our giving we need to be sacrificial...

Not only were they excruciatingly poor, but verse 2 tells us that they were in a great trial of affliction - the literal sense is that they were being squeezed by the difficulties of their life. Maybe you're thinking, 'Don't talk to me about giving, I hardly have two pennies to rub together' - neither did these believers, their situation was almost impossible in the grinding poverty that they experienced in their severe trials. But it was out of that circumstance that this incredible grace giving came, and Paul commends them for it. Out of extreme trial, severe poverty, they were overflowing with joy, Paul says, because they abounded unto the riches of their liberality. Even in the midst of such awful despair financially, there was grace giving. Do you know what principle that lays down for me? No one is too poor to give - no one. It's astounding - if you think this is hard to believe, you need to listen to Paul further of his description of them in verses 3 and 4. Look at it: 'For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves' - they gave beyond their means, they gave beyond how they really could, literally 'beyond' means 'contrary to their ability'. They weren't using commonsense here - and I know, and later we'll deal with this, that we have to give as the Lord has prospered us - but let that not be a cloak in any way for us to get out of the fact that the Scriptures lay down the fact that in our giving we need to be sacrificial. This is grace giving.

Chrysostom, one of the early Christians, marvelled at these Macedonians, and he said: 'They did the begging, not Paul'. They were saying: 'Come on Paul, have a heart, don't limit us in our giving'. Look at verse 4: 'Praying us', they were begging us, 'with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saint'. Now this is astounding: they hadn't really got it to give, but they're begging Paul not for money, but begging to give money! There's nothing more I hate than believers begging for money - but I haven't seen too many people today begging to give money beyond their means. This is the grace of giving, it has nothing to do with being well-off, it's not dictated by your ability, it's got to do with your willingness - your heart, your love for God and for Christ. That's all that can produce such giving - their amazing giving was simply the result that they had given themselves over to God.

If you miss this you miss absolutely everything: it's easy, when you have given everything over to God, to give to others because it's the natural reflex of the soul - when God owns you, the whole of you, He owns everything that you have. When He lays His finger on something for you to give, you give it! Paul says the reason why they were giving like this was in verse 5: 'they first give their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God'. Now listen, I know you're saved, but have you ever given your whole self over to God? Have you ever given your pocket over to God? Not like the man baptised, and kept his hand in the air with his wallet in it, so that it wouldn't go under the water.

I'll tell you, pockets are one of the hardest things to baptise these days! They just don't seem to go under the water! But you see, if you have actually given yourself - as baptism illustrates - the whole of yourself over to God, there'll be no problem. A young Norwegian named Peter Torgensson (sp?) was 17 years of age and his heart was so stirred by a challenging missionary message on giving, that he opened his wallet, and he poured out all his money into the offering bag - and as an afterthought he included a wee scrap of paper on which he wrote 'Og mit liv' (sp?), which translated says 'And my life'. He went later to be a fruitful missionary all his life in the land of China. But can we say that? 'All my life' - and if all your life is surrendered to the Lord - and I'll tell you this, and I'm no statistician, but I reckon that most believers in the West today, their lives are not entirely surrendered over to the Lord - but if it is, like the Macedonians, you will do the right thing because you've done it the right way, you've given your heart to God, and then you've given yourself to your fellow believers; which in turn results in giving the financial resources that you have. That is where grace giving must begin.

In Romans 12 verse 1, Paul says: 'I beseech you therefore by the mercies of God', the blessings God has given you. This is the grounds for your giving yourself: 'that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service'. In other words, he's saying the reason why you should give your whole selves to God is because of all the blessings that God has given to you. That's where grace giving begins, because the standard of grace giving is the greatest grace gift that has ever been given - and Paul comes to this in his great climax in verse 9. The reason why we ought to give so much of our whole selves and even our finances, is because we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This isn't a gospel text that we can just pluck out and preach out of context - people say 'You shouldn't preach on giving from the pulpit, be careful about giving from the pulpit' - Paul does no greater thing than take the very cross and blood of Christ and enshrine it as an example of how we should be giving financially. I tell you, if he can stamp it with the blood of Christ, we should not apologise in preaching it!

Not to give because the preacher begs that much that you'll give a tenner just to get him to shut up; not giving because you've been promised through the television that you'll be healed, or that you'll get a hundredfold back or a million or whatever, or that your prayers will be answered...

He says the very standard that should motivate our giving is the fact that Jesus, who could tread any galaxy He liked, came from the realms of heaven and took upon Himself the form of a servant and became poor. I don't have time to begin even, I couldn't even do it, to enter into the wonderful riches of our Lord Jesus Christ as He was there, pre-existent before He came into humanity, the Son of God eternally, the Word of God with God before the world began - nothing that was created was created without Him. Yet here He is stepping from eternity into time, clothing Himself in flesh, the poverty of that alone! Then going to the cross and becoming sin, He who was perfect and blameless - I'm pathetic even in describing it.

Paul is saying heaven's stewardship programme is this: the cross of Christ, and that's got to be the pattern for you. Not to give because the preacher begs that much that you'll give a tenner just to get him to shut up; not giving because you've been promised through the television that you'll be healed, or that you'll get a hundredfold back or a million or whatever, or that your prayers will be answered - here's the reason why we should give: the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who was rich, but for our sakes became poor. That is what produced the grace giving in their lives: because of Jesus. Do you give in the measure that He was given for you?

Now in conclusion, can I ask us as an assembly, and I don't want to be too personal here: what is the condition of our giving? Let me just give you an example here: there are 200 members within the assembly here in the Iron Hall, on the membership roll that is. Now just say for one moment that half of them - that's 100, I'll help you along the way - are earning a minimum of 13,000 pounds a year, that's half of 200 earning 13,000 a year, which is quite a low wage in today's standards - you might think it's quite high for me, that might be so, but there's a lot more people earning more than you, but we'll go rock bottom just to start off with. Take 10% of that - that's 1300 pounds, isn't it? So if that's your giving for a year with a wage of 13,000 - that's only a tenth, mandatory giving, a third almost of Old Testament giving. Multiply that by the hundred that are actually giving, half, that comes to 130,000 pounds which should be coming in each year to the assembly. Now if you divide that by 52 - I hope I'm not leaving you behind here - that works out what we should be giving in every week: 2500 pounds per week. Some of you know what we are getting - do you know how much that works out a head? Divide the 2500 by 100 - 25 pounds per week, per head. Now I now that's a lot for some of you, but its pittance. It's strange that a tenner seem so big when you come into church, but when you're in a restaurant it seems nothing.

Now, my friends, I'm not getting the big stick out today, I'm just asking the question: where is our giving? Yet we're not adding to that the other hundred who should be giving. We're not adding to that the fact that many earn much more than that; we're not adding to that the fact that non-members give, that many of you aren't enrolled in the covenant scheme and could be giving absolutely more. How are we doing? Some of you know how we're doing! How are we not doing? Haggai said: 'Ye looked for much, and, lo it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house'. We need to face this fact.

A preacher once came to see a farmer, and asked him: 'If you had 200 pounds, would you give 100 pounds to the Lord?'. He said: 'I would'. 'If you had two cows would you give one cow to the Lord?'. He said: 'Of course I would, sure'. 'If you had two pigs, would you give one of them to the Lord?'. He says: 'Ah, now that's not fair, I have two pigs'. Isn't that the way we are with the Lord at times?

Ruth Bell-Graham, that's Billy's wife, said they were sitting in church and Franklin - who is now an evangelist taking after his father - was a little boy of five years of age. As the music was quietly playing, the offering plate reached their row - and out of the corner of her eye she saw Franklin dip his hand into the offering plate. Quick as a flash she grabbed the five-year-old's fist, and looking up at her with a grieved expression on his face the little boy said, loud enough for everybody to hear around him: 'I was only hiding my penny under that dollar'. Now let me say that some of us are very very keen that no one should know what we are giving - can I say: it suits us to be piously concerned about our offerings at times. It suits us to be anonymous, because it either covers over our miserliness, or the non-existence of our offerings! Here's a fact - I'm no Einstein - but I can work out the figures: there are some of you here today, and you haven't given to the Lord for over a year.

The story is told about a large assembly in New York. When the time came to take the offering, one man reached into his wallet and selected a five dollar bill and waited for the usher. He observed that the man taking the offerings in the aisle was none other than a multimillionaire, very famous, in fact of national reputation. Willing to make a good impression, he exchanged the five dollar bill for a 100 dollar bill and placed it on the plate. What would you do, if next Sunday morning, if you're even at the Breaking of Bread, instead of a deacon taking the plate or the bag round, there was a nail pierced hand? Forget about millionaires, what about a nail pierced hand? And there was written on it your name, and underneath 'Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor'. That is the basis for grace giving - but the question is: does it, and will it make a difference to any of us?

Our Father, Thou art the God who sees the hearts of all men. Lord, this is a delicate subject because we are instructed not to let the right-hand know what the left-hand is doing, but Lord we know that Thou knowest all things, and You know if we love You enough, more than these moneys, to give and to sacrifice liberally. Lord, we know that the only way we will do that in a way that will last at the judgment seat is if we have given our hearts to Thee, if we are completely and utterly given over to God. Lord, our desire and our goal this morning is not to see the offering plate or box full, but to see men and women's lives given to the altar of God, and in response we will be like Moses having to tell the people: 'No more, no more, we have sufficient'. May the Saviour's dying love, as Paul has told us, be like this: that we love Him because He first loved us. Amen.

Don't miss Part 2 of "The Grace Of Giving" study series: "Its Biblical Principles Part 1"

Transcribed by:
Preach The Word.
November 2003

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the first tape in his "The Grace Of Giving" study series, titled "The Grace Of Giving - Its Biblical Basis" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.

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