For our Gift Day on 23rd February 2020 our preacher was Edna Emmanuel, long term member of St James and PCC and Admin secretary. This was an excellent sermon about why as Christians we should be giving to God. You can read it here.
We have not been able to record sermons recently but for previous sermon recordings, visit Podcast.com.
Our 2016 series on the book of Acts:
November 15th: Acts chapter 26
November 1st: Acts chapter 24
October 25th: Acts chapter 23
October 18th: Acts chapter 22
October 11th: Acts chapter 21
October 4th: Acts chapter 20
September 27th: Acts chapter 19
September 13th: Acts chapter 17
September 6th: Acts chapter 16
August 30th: Acts chapter 15
August 23rd: Acts chapter 14
August 9th: Acts chapter 12
August 2nd: Acts chapter 11
July 19th: Acts chapter 9
July 12th, 9am: Acts chapter 8:1-25 | July 12th, 11am: Acts chapter 8:26-end
July 5th: Acts chapter 7
June 28th: Acts chapter 6
June 21st: Acts chapter 5
June 14th: Acts chapter 4
June 7th: Acts chapter 3
Every time there is a sermon on giving someone will say “the church is always asking for money” or “are they asking for more money?”
So, for today, let’s replace the words “Church” and “they” with “God”, would anyone say “God’s always asking for money”?
Our first Bible reading today was from Malachi. Malachi doesn’t pull any punches.
In Malachi 3: 8 God says, “we are cheating him of the tithes and offering due to him”. Now only you and God will know what that means for you.
God inspired the prophet Malachi to speak to the Hebrew people on the subject of giving. I don’t think God was scolding His people, it was more about educating them. Clearly, many of them were not aware of what God expected and maybe, that’s true for us today.
God expected His people to give 10% of their income. In Leviticus 27:30 it says, “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. It is holy to the Lord.”
Giving 10% is also mentioned in Genesis 28:22 when Moses says to God, “And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You."
The word “tithe” in the Hebrew language means “a tenth.”
The Lord claims the tithe as His. So, the Hebrew people knew what God expected. 10% of their income whether livestock or food in those days, today it would be money, 10% was supposed to be given to God.
So why did He want them to give 10%?
Well, when the Hebrew people took possession of the Land of Canaan, the ground was divided up among the 12 tribes of Israel. However, the tribe of Levi was not given land. Levi's descendants were consecrated by God to be His priests.
One of their many responsibilities was to serve and maintain the tabernacle in the wilderness, then later the temple in Jerusalem, so the tithes were paid for the upkeep of their tabernacles and temples.
The Levites received tithes and offerings from the people and that’s how they were able to feed their families and pay for their living expenses.
If, the Hebrew people didn’t pay their tithes, then the Levite priests and their families would suffer and the tabernacles and temples would deteriorate. Much the same for priests and the buildings today, so that’s why we pay the Common Fund.
The Common Fund pays our vicars’ stipend (salaries). We have 2 part-time vicars, they each receive a part-time salary, but we have been blessed in that they both each work almost full-time, especially now the girls are older.
I mentioned the Common Fund, Common Fund pays the clergies salaries, pensions, National Insurance, Council Tax and provides them with housing. It goes towards the training of new priests of which St James have had a fair few, Liz Moody, Christopher Ramsay, Rachel Pennant, Ajay More and Julia Jagannath are those that I can remember. It pays for on-going training for existing clergy; it helps to support less well-off churches. It pays to develop lay ministry by putting on training courses, like the preaching course that 7 of us went on a couple of years ago and it supports Church of England schools.
Although the Common Fund is the largest expenditure this church has each year, the PCC have always felt it a necessary expense to be paid in full, if we can afford it. Not paying the Common Fund could mean church closures or clergy having to look after more than one church.
Churches suffer today because people don’t give like they should, so the church is unable to do the things it should, like reaching out to the community, “the least, the lost and the lonely”, as Jesus did.
Our Mission Statement is “standing on the rock of Jesus, shining His light to all we meet”. How will we shine his light, if we can’t pay the electricity bill?
In Luke 6:38 it says, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."
In the reading from Malachi, God is not happy with His people because they have neglected the “covenant” practice.
God says we have scorned his decrees and failed to obey Him. He wants us to return to Him so He can return to us, but we don’t think we have gone away, because we ask, “how can we return when we have never gone away?”
God says we have cheated him of the tithes and offerings due to him and in verse 10 it says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do, “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!
How do we put God to the test? Well 2 Kings 4: 1-7 tells us about the widow in danger of losing her sons because she was unable to pay her creditors, she had nothing at all except a flask of olive oil! Elisha told her to borrow as many empty jars as she could and to pour the olive oil from the flask to the jars, when she did, she had enough olive oil to fill all the jars, with some left.
Look what happened because she trusted and obeyed.
God wants the tithes and offerings to go to the church so that the priests will be able to concentrate on the work He has for them to do, and not be like poor beggars or having to do another job to keep their families. Just imagine if Steve and Ali had to look after 4 services here on Sundays, Communion on Wednesdays, Ali’s deliverance ministry, Steve’s Chair of Governors’ role and all the other meetings and random calls they have to deal with, and then on top of that, go out to work to provide for their family.
He wanted tithes and offerings to go to the temple for the upkeep of the building, so it was then, and so it is now.
As our building gets older, things go wrong, things break, things need to be repaired and we need to keep it in good repair.
God was very clear about where tithes were to go. They were to be brought to the storehouse, that’s where our tithes are to be stored.
Now, some people would say, “Tithing is not in the New Testament” or “it doesn’t mention 10%”. Well it does.
The Pharisees boasted that they paid their tithes, Jesus called them hypocrites because yes, they paid their tithes but as it says in Matthew 23:23, they neglected matters of the law such as justice and mercy and faith. We need to do both. Paying tithes does not absolve us from our other duties, nor does dealing with matters of the law, a reason not to pay our tithes. We are expected to do both.
Giving to other good causes does not mean we do not pay our tithes.
Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus tells us that He did not come to destroy but to fulfil the law and the prophets and in verse 20 it says that "unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven”.
So even though we are no longer under the Law of Moses and we are now under grace, this does not mean that tithing is not part of God’s plan for us.
The tithe has always been God's plan to support the priesthood and the ministry. The tithe supports the work of the local ministry which has always been God’s financial plan to provide for His work and workers.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and commands that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
All Christians are called to be generous with their freewill giving in response to the gospel and based on faith in God as Provider
In our New Testament reading, isn’t that what the widow did?
she gave her last 2 coins.
A very good friend of mine went to church one Sunday and had her last £5, it was a £5 note, knowing that her car needed petrol, as the collection plate was going round she wrestled with her conscience as to whether she put the £5 in or save it to put petrol in the car.
My friend is a very proud lady, so to save face from what she thought would be embarrassing, she put the £5 in the collection. After church that day, she went to her mother’s house, she didn’t tell her family what she had just done in fear of mockery, but; to her surprise her brother handed her £100 out of the blue.
The Bible says He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully, it says we shouldn’t give grudgingly or out of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver (growing up in Jamaica, I lived with my Godmother when my parents came to England, and if as children we were reluctant to share, my Godmother would always say “God loves a cheerful giver”).
We live by the Bible, Old and New Testament, so just because something is only in the Old Testament doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply today.
I am guessing that most of us don't have grain and produce to bring to the storehouse, but we do have incomes from which we can bring our tithes and offerings into the church, incomes earned from the talent God has given to us.
We are also told that we are not saved by works and so not tithing doesn’t condemn us to hell, but tithing will improve our lives and the life of the church and will strengthen our relationship with God.
Each week we are asked in the Creed, “Do you believe and trust in God” and we quite cheerful say “We believe and trust in Him” (perhaps we just need to add “for everything else but our money”).
We all have that thing that we will not go without, (for me it’s that dress, I never have anything to wear if I’m invited out, so I buy something else and then lay in bed visualising my wardrobe and remembering that dress that I have only worn once or not worn at all), for some people its gadgets, games, meals out, and that may sometimes mean that we cheat God to get that thing that we want. We need to first trust God and obey His commands.
We don’t have a choice when the Inland Revenue take their 25%,out of our salary (or whatever the figure is now) and if they’ve made a mistake and not taken enough they will take it from the next month’s salary, no questions asked, but God has given us the opportunity to give to Him a proportion of what is His anyway and we struggle with that.
Many of us in St James have elderly parents or family members in our home countries that we support and we want to support because of all they have done for us. Some children growing up can’t wait to be in a position to give back to their parents because they have given them everything they have.
My own son is a record producer, when he got the deal to produce his first album, found himself in a position that he could afford to pay for us to go to Canada for Christmas that year, and while he could afford it there was nothing too much for us and his sister to have.
If by being earthly parents and doing the best we can for our children, they want to repay us, so how much more should we want to give back to God just a proportion of what he gives us? He gives us everything, far more than we can ever give our children, he gives us the breath we breathe, everything we are and have is from Him.
Mark 12: 17 says, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
So, in all honesty everything belongs to God and He really isn’t asking us for much.
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”
God encourages us to test Him in our finances.
The song writer says “trust and obey, for there’s no other way”
For the next month, I challenge you to trust God with your finances. It doesn’t mean that some months that there won’t be more days than money, but He has always promised to be with us through those difficult times. He will provide for our needs and often our wants also.
Matthew 6 19-21 says “19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.
We must give cheerfully and generously, steward wisely, and let’s not store our treasures here on earth.
David reminded us last week, of God providing manna for the people of Israel each day, that God gives us for today, not for tomorrow, not yet. God says “Don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own".
Believe in God, obey His commands and trust Him to do the rest.
Today, St James is having a Gift Day as the PCC have had to agree a very large deficit budget. This deficit is mainly because as a church we had become reliant on hall rentals to cover our costs. We have lost rental income from Kumon of £11,000 a year and the nursery is now only operating term time only so that income has been reduced from £25,194 to £19,755 a year. A deficit from rental of approximately £16,500.
When was the last time you reviewed your giving?
I have been giving by standing order for a number of years and only recently thought, since I retired my pensions increase every year but I had not done anything about increasing my giving, so I made a conscious effort to do so. When was the last time you reviewed your giving?
Planned giving at St James can be done by Standing Order or by weekly giving envelopes. If you need more information about ways to give to St James then please have a word with David Shaw or myself.
Perhaps we could stop for a moment and ask God what we should be giving to Him according to our individual circumstances and whether we need to adjust our giving, reminding ourselves that we are giving to God’s work. If there has been a figure going around in your head this morning, then TEST God.
Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness.