Sunday, October 15, 2006

hodges on giving

270332134 23B6F45183 Ben Hodges from Four Corners Community Church spoke today continuing in the series on MyStuff. I really liked his style and most of the message. One of his anecdotes especially helped bring the picture he was painting to life. Hodges described how he likes to take his son Conner to football games. The reason Conner likes to go is not so much for the football or even time with his father, but mostly he likes to get money to go to the concession stand to buy Skittles. When Conner returns with the Skittles, Hodges would ask if he could have a few and of course Conner reply is often "no". At best, Conner might cautiously share a few and feel that he is generous as he does so. Conner obviously forgets who gave him the money for the Skittles. And that his Dad is bigger and could just take the Skittles. Conner doesn't even realize that Hodges could go buy all the remaining Skittles at the concession stand and have enough for himself and Conner. Etc. And so we are with God.

Why would God ask us to give if in fact He "owns" the universe? It's because He knows that He has created us in a way that we are most satisfied when we understand that He is our provider and we bring all things back to Him. And as previously discussed, He is most gloried in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

And note the purposeful use of the word "bring" over "give". Give implies we actually had some kind of ownership to start with. We are actually bringing back to the Father what is already His. Ge 1.26-27 reminds us that we are only "managers" of His goodness.

In his sermon, Hodges repeated the concepts developed by Matt Massey last week. God is the Blessor. We are the Blessed. We are only blessed when living in His power and grace. All good things come from the Giver of Life. We come into the world with empty hands. All that we have comes from God - even the "very breath we take".

Hodges then reminds us that giving is similar to forgiveness. We are forgiven so that we could forgive. We are most satisfied in God when we are forgiven and help others to be most satisfied in God by forgiving them. In that, He is most glorified. I just blogged about this and liked the parallel to giving. God is the Blessor, we are the Blessed, and this is so that we can be a Blessing to others. We get to give. And as we find satisfaction in doing so in Christ, God is most glorified.

Then Hodges' nicely tied our giving to the Old Testament principle of First Fruits (Ex 13.1-2). In setting aside the First Fruits, we consecrate, that is, make holy, the rest. This acknowledges that 100% really belongs to God.

I would have liked to see him go a little further with this. I think it would have been good to show how First Fruits were given before the rest of the harvest was in. This was a statement of saying, "God, I don't know what will come next, but whether feast or famine, I will trust in you and give you the first." I might have also developed the concept of God getting the best. This of course leads me to my only issue with the sermon and that is that I think Hodges mixed several forms of giving. There is the concept of giving to God the very best of the herd. There is also several forms of tithe which Hodges defined as a flat 10% and equated to First Fruits. I see several forms of tithe in the OT and I can see totals coming out of that ranging from 10% to 33 1/3% - and in some of this, I don't find a link to First Fruits.

My disappointment that he didn't expand that more was compounded by his closing remarks regarding those that are not giving. He reminded us of Mal 3.8-12 which links nicely back to the Blessor, Blessed, Blessing concept. Because God blesses, we are blessed, we will bless others, and they will recognize the source of the blessing as from God thereby giving Him the most glory.

The problem is that Hodges encouraged those that struggle to give to start small and "test" God in this. I think this misses the mark. If we are struggling to give, I really wonder if there is any value to giving at all. What do you think? Shouldn't we grasp the principles that Hodges outlined so well and if we do, won't we then want to give? And if so, will 10% versus some other figure ever really come into question? And if not, is our giving pleasing to God or is it in vain?

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