Today let's begin with three short stories from The Bible to illustrate how to live a life "Unchained" or without restraint. These stories are found in Matthew 26:7 (The Alabaster Box), Luke 5:4 (Launch Out) and I Kings 17:10 (Widow and Elijah).
There were many widows in the land but Elijah was sent only to this one. I had to ask myself the question "Why?" And the best answer I could come up with was - maybe she was the only one who was radical enough that God could bless her. OR - Maybe she was willing enough to risk everything in order to see a miracle.
Do you know that sometimes you have to let go of what's NOT working so you can embrace God's plan that WILL WORK? We are often times slow to let go of what's not working. Maybe because of fear, or we just feel we don't have any options. Why keep living life at a level that you are not happy with, or that's not working? That's what we call INSANITY - doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.
The widows plan was to gather sticks and die, but God's plan was to bless her beyond her wildest imagination. Our plan and God's plan are so radically different that you have to choose between the two - MY WAY or GOD'S WAY! You can keep your Alabaster box and remain unchanged OR, you can break the box and worship on a whole other level, but you can't do BOTH. You can stay on the shore, always wondering "what if," OR you can launch out into the deep and be blessed. But you can't do BOTH. You can gather sticks (stay small minded and fearful) OR you can follow God's plan and have a miracle in your finances, but you can't do BOTH.
PLAN A - Obey God and be blessed. Trust God. Prove God.
PLAN B - Do it your way. Tithe when convenient. Tithe when you get out of debt.
BUT YOU CAN'T DO BOTH!
Often, when talking about money, people sitting in church start looking for the EXIT signs! But I've got the courage to tell you the truth. The easiest thing in the world would be to NOT talk about money in church. To avoid the topic. To not risk criticism. But that would be wrong and cowardly. Think of it this way - would you be upset if you had a toothache, went to the dentist and your dentist didn't want to talk about how to fix your pain because it was going to make you feel uncomfortable? So instead of telling you that you need a root canal, he just wants to talk about family, how good God is and that you have a destiny. I mean, he's just chillin' when he should be drillin'!
Part of God's financial plan is TITHES and OFFERINGS. Tithe is not some super religious word and not some Christian jargon. It's a numerical term meaning "one-tenth". Some say the tithe thing is pretty much an Old Testament thing, right? I mean the New Testament is all about grace, right? The answer is NO! Giving and tithing are very much a New Testament thing. Concerning giving, the New Testament tends to teach that a tenth is the minimum I should be doing. The New Testament givers were EXTRAVAGANT GIVERS and they gave sacrificially. Jesus personally endorsed tithing. Matthew 23:23 says, "Yes, woe upon you Pharisees and you other religious leaders - hypocrites! For you tithe down to the last mint leaf in your garden, but you ignore the more important things - justice, mercy and faith." Yes, you should tithe, but you shouldn't leave the more important things undone. Jesus himself said you should tithe.
The New Testament Christians were tithers. Hebrews 7:8 says that "men who die receive tithes; but there [that is, in Heaven] He receives them of whom it is witnessed that He liveth." One translation reads "tithes are received by mortal men." Malachi 3:10 says, "Bring all the tithe into the storehouse that there may be meat in my house and prove me now says the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open the windows of Heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there should not be room enough to receive it."
Let's do the BREAKDOWN:
BRING your tithe. Why "bring" it? Because it is to be a part of your worship. You don't pay your tithe like paying a bill. It is an act of worship. Just like singing, lifting your hands, praying or listening.
WHOLE TITHE - 10%. Don't divide your tithe.
THE STOREHOUSE - that's the Church. Let's look at it this way: You are giving to the Church - God's franchise on earth. What we do is more important than any other business, company or organization. Because we deal with lives and eternity. Jesus believed in a literal place called Heaven and a literal place called hell. So much so that He sacrificed himself in order to help people get to Heaven and avoid hell. He gave all He had because of this reality. I worship God in my giving so that not one man, woman, boy or girl misses Heaven because of a dollar.
MEAT IN MY HOUSE - This is referring to ministry. We are called to be stewards, meaning I don't own it, I just oversee it. Let me give you another word here - you and I are "money missionaries." We are called to the ministry of "Reconciliation," and that means "Taking Jesus To Others."
PROVE ME - The only place where God says "Put me to the test."
POUR YOU OUT A BLESSING - The tithe puts you in the ZONE or the BLESSED place. What is a zone? It's an area distinguished from surrounding areas. Such as a work zone, a school zone or a speed zone. In sports terms, being "in the zone" means your game is in the sweet spot. When you are in the zone with God, it means that place where you qualify for His blessings. He wants you ZONED IN and not ZONED OUT! No one is born a natural giver, but we are all born as natural takers.
Let's purpose to be IN THE ZONE and be EXTRAVAGANT GIVERS!