Last week we began talking about the third King of Israel, Solomon. Having been the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon gave us great life instruction in the three books of the Bible he wrote, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. We focused on Proverbs 3 last week, and I want to us to look at some more pieces of that chapter. Again, we are focused on obtaining wisdom, making right and good choices so that we can live well.
Most people would argue that it is good to cut corners and save, to stock up and prepare, to put away resources in order to meet retirement and other goals. For sure those are wise things to do, but planning for your personal future doesn’t mean you seek to keep everything you have. It means you seek to honor God with everything you have, and believe it or not, God has laid out what that would look like. Sometimes we have to pray, and seek and discern God’s will, but the use of our resources isn’t for God’s glory is something God has made clear in His Word. One of the wisest things we can do as Children of God is to learn to use our resources God’s way.
- BE A GOOD STEWARD.
Look at verses 9-10 of Proverbs 3:
Proverbs 3:9-10-Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
So, the wisest guy who ever lived said we should honor God with the first part of our income; that we should give back to Him before anything else. Before the mortgage, before the car payment, before the other obligations and certainly before the fun and entertainment we seek to fund, we are to give to the Lord, and we are to give Him 10% of what we earn. That is what tithing is. It is the giving of 10% of our income to the Lord. This probably isn’t a natural thing for us to do, but one we learn and teach our children as we grow in Christ. Our son Josh received $50.00 for mowing grass a few weeks back, and my first comment to him was, “You know where the first five dollars goes, right?” He did. He knew it was money for the offering here at church.
10%. That sounds pretty extreme, doesn’t it? I guess you could look at it that way. I guess it depends on the importance you place on money. I suppose it depends on the way you look at and understand obedience. It probably depends too on your faith, your Christian walk and how much you trust God to provide for everything you need if you honor Him first as He asks. That is really what it all boils down to.
God gives us resources for us to manage, and He asks that we keep and manage 90% well, but that we give Him 10%. I guess when you look at it that way, it sounds like a pretty good deal. We keep 90% and give God back 10%. But I suppose if you view it that whatever money you earn is yours rather than is something God has provided for you to manage, the request for the 10% back seems heavy-handed.
I Timothy 6:7 reminds us that we brought nothing into this world, and we won’t take anything with us. We don’t really own anything. We manage what God gives us. We don’t own it because we don’t get to keep it in the end.
Solomon wants us to view our resources God’s way because when we do it will be a joy to give and it will lead to greater blessing in our lives. Did you see verse 10? As we give to God in a way that honors and acknowledges that we understand He owns it all and we are just managers of our resources, He blesses us back in ways that are abundant. That is the part in verse nine about your barns being filled with more and more stuff. (I personally don’t know how much more we can fit in our garage! Anyone know what I am talking about?) But this is the spiritual principle of tithing. We give God’s way, and He will bless it. When we give Him from the first of our income, He will bless the rest. I guarantee that God can lead you to do more with 90% and have more on your 90% and be happier with your 90% than you would have been with your 100% if you had kept the portion God had ask for.
Quite frankly, what we do with our money says a lot about who is really in charge of our lives.
Money is a sticky subject, and lot of people struggle with this spiritual principle. Some people accuse churches of only being out for people’s money. Let’s be honest. We like our money. We are all probably trying to find ways to have more of it. That isn’t bad, but what we need to remember is that money doesn’t meet our needs. God meets our needs, and one way He does that is by giving us resources to manage. But if we think money meets our needs we will acquire and keep as much of it as possible rather than honoring God with the ten percent He asks for.
God established the tithe in the Old Testament where repeatedly He told the Israelites, His chosen people, to tithe on what they produced and made. In fact, God equated not tithing with robbing God. Rather than the abundant blessing they would receive from God because of their obedience to tithe, they were under a curse. Look at Malachi 3:7-10 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ 8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 YOU ARE UNDER A CURSE–the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. TEST ME IN THIS,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
This is the ONLY time in Scripture God says, “Test me.” Everywhere else it is “You shall not put the Lord Your God to the test,” but in this matter of keeping 90% and giving God 10% He says to test Him. See if it isn’t true. See if He won’t open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing on you that is overwhelming and wonderful. Try it. In fact, if you try it for one month, and God doesn’t come through, I will arrange for you to get your money back! How about that? A money back guarantee! If you just want to put your toe in the water, start with giving 5% or 1%. See what happens!
Some people teach that Jesus abolished the law and did away with the requirement of tithing. That isn’t how I read the NT. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for tithing and then neglecting the more important parts of the law like justice, mercy, and faithfulness. He told them they should have tithed, but they should have also paid attention to justice, mercy, and faithfulness. The same principle is repeated in Luke 11:42. I think Charlie Turley said it best here one Sunday when he stood and said, “Tithing isn’t God’s way of growing His Kingdom. It is the way He grows His children.” –Charlie Turley
There isn’t much we love more than we love our money, so if we are willing to use our money God’s way, He knows where our hearts are! They are in obedience to Him. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21
So, Solomon is telling us that wise people honor God with their financial resources. He also addressed giving to others and being generous with people. Look at verses 27-28.
“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow”– when you now have it with you.”
We are to give God’s way to God’s work and look for opportunities to bless other people when we have the opportunity.
- BE OPEN TO DISCIPLINE.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, tells us that discipline and correction are good to embrace. Look at verses 11-12: “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
Wise people understand that love and discipline go together. You can’t love someone and not reach out to them when they are headed in the wrong direction. When you see someone headed for destruction, if you simply adopt the attitude that it’s their life and they can do what they want to do, you don’t love them.
Hebrews 12:7-11 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Athletes understand discipline. You don’t just decide one day to take the field and hope for the best, right? No, there is a conditioning, there are exercises and drills that you learn and perform repeatedly. I’ve read recently that one of the least favorite words of an athlete is “again” when coaches blow the whistle and say, “That was good. Let’s do it again.” Josh has been going to football conditioning now for some time and the things he tells me and shows me that he has to do look nothing short of physical torture to me, but he is willingly putting himself through the grueling workouts because he wants to become a football player. It isn’t that he wants to do the exercises, but he wants to become a football player. He is open to the transformation process even if it means they are doing squats or push-ups to the “Bring Sally Up” song repeatedly.
Tom Landry, former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, said, “The job of a coach is to make players do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.” –Tom Landry
Just as there is a purpose to physical exercise, regiments, conditioning, etc., so too there is a purpose to spiritual discipline, training, and correction. God didn’t send Jesus so that we could become a better version of ourselves. He sent Him so that we could become like Him. That transformation won’t happen without discipline. Discipline gives direction and we all need God’s discipline in order to be headed in the right direction.
Discipline is training, not punishment. God doesn’t just slap our hands or give us a time out to punish us. No, He administers discipline in our lives from time to time to train us, to teach us, to shape our hearts, to help us conform to the image of Christ. Training is about love. Training says, “I want you to be able to do it differently for your sake because it is what is best for you!”
I love the story of a beginning artist who asked Michelangelo how he could sculpt such amazing statues. Michelangelo pointed to an angel he had just finished chiseling out of marble and said, “I saw this angel in the marble, and I chiseled until I set it free.”
Likewise, God sees what we can become and in order to set us free to become like Christ, there is some chiseling that has to take place. There are a lot of Christians who have been set free by the blood of Jesus, but as they wrestle with sin, as they give in to temptation from time to time, it is like they are walking with chains around their ankles and weights on their back. When you become a child of God, God doesn’t just let you live any way you want because His plan for you is to be free from sin and to be free to live as Jesus did.
You may have heard, “As long as you live in my house you will abide by my rules?” If you heard that phrase you grew up in a house where you couldn’t just live any way you wanted to. (Unfortunately some people grow up in homes where the children make the rules and the parents are led by the wishes and desires of their children, but that is another sermon.) If there were rules in your home of origin, and if your parents were demonstrating their love for you appropriately, they were holding you accountable to the standard. We can’t become children of God and live like we belong to the devil. We can’t just do what we want to do and be led by our fleshly and natural desires. Doing what comes naturally won’t lead us into greater freedom and help us look like Jesus.
(Landry and Michelangelo quote taken from: http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-delight-in-discipline-righteousness-peace-hebrews-12)
So we know the Holy Spirit brings conviction in our hearts when we mess up and need disciplined. (John 16:8) We know what it feels like to feel guilty for something. We know what it is like to have it gnaw at us until we confess and ask for forgiveness and pray through to live differently. The way to receive God’s discipline is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit when He is at work in your life.
I also know the Word of God brings conviction in our lives. There are probably some topics that I preach on that are tough for you to hear. Sometimes we think we are good to go, and then the sermon is given. We are good at minimizing sin in the moment and justifying it and putting it in a little box that is separate from our Sunday experience, and then when the Word of God is preached we can be hit between the eyes with truth that convicts us because we know we are living different from God’s desires for our lives. That conviction is meant to help us line up with truth. If Christians aren’t lining up with truth it means they are living a lie. There is no freedom in living a lie. In fact, I think lying is one of the biggest forms of bondage ever, maybe second only to addiction although the two usually go together.
We also may experience discipline in our lives when godly people confront us about something. You and I have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ to speak lovingly to them about things in their lives that are putting them back into bondage. If someone who loves Jesus and loves you has the guts to confront you about something sinful in your life your response should be, “Thank you for caring enough about me to tell me the truth.” That might not be your initial response, but hopefully you can get there as you let the Spirit work their words into your heart. Pray to be open to discipline.
- BE CONFIDENT IN CHRIST
Proverbs 3:25-26: Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.
God is watching out for you. He has your best interest at heart. He is always good. (Psalm 118:1a) He isn’t good like you or I might be good from time to time. We could have good days and bad days. We could get it right some and get it wrong some. Not God. He is perfect in His goodness. He is on your side (Psalm 118:6). He is for you (Romans 8:31).
If anyone has a reason to live with a peaceful mind, a calm outlook, a blessed assurance, it is the Christian. He will be our confidence. We don’t have to be afraid of a sudden disaster. We don’t have to worry about a “what if” scenario. God has got us in the palm of His hand.
Think about God’s work in your lives. Think about the moments that may have seemed “random” or “coincidence” at the time, but as you have progressed in your relationship with God you can see they were the miracle of God at work behind the scenes of your life. Listen, we are always being “set up” by God! He is always working in and through life’s circumstances and people, being careful not to violate our free will, but to direct our hearts to Him.
Don’t be afraid of things that haven’t happened or could happen or even give in to panic when something does happen that is unpleasant or unwanted. God will never stop loving you which means He will work out every situation for your good and His glory no matter how ugly or distressing it is (Romans 8:28). Even if something happens because you step out of God’s will and sin and make a mess out of it, breathe, confess it, and ask God for forgiveness. Bring Him the broken pieces, and He will do something that will cause you to fall more in love with Him and cause you to be more faithful to Him than ever before. “For if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9 You see, things that seem to come out of nowhere in our lives don’t catch God be surprise.
God doesn’t want you to live anxious, frantic and panicked. Let who He is and what He can do be your confidence. Get your mind on His Word. Talk to Him about your feelings. Ask Him for His peace to stand as a guard over your mind and heart. Hear and receive this truth from Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” The Word of God is a confidence builder and peace provider. Read it and ask God to saturate your heart with it. The more you understand what God can do, the more you will look to Him to see you through.
Philippians 4:6-7 tells us not to be anxious about anything, but to pray about everything and the result will be God’s peace. I read this week a bit about anxiety and I learned that anxiety has three main elements:
- Insecurity: We convince ourselves something bad is going to happen.
- Helplessness: We have the mindset that there is nothing we can do about it.
- Isolation: We believe there is no one to help us.
The only way to put anxiety to rest is to trust in the Lord and allow Him to be our confidence. Jesus never told His followers that this life would be a piece of cake. He never denied difficult things could and would happen. He said this life would have trouble. (John 16:33) He didn’t offer His followers freedom from stress or struggle, but He promised them He would provide a way for them to overcome it all. Anxious people expect bad things to happen and go looking for them to happen. Confident Christ people know they are possible, but understand that Christ has overcome the world and has promised His followers will too. Anxious people adopt the victim mindset that they simply have to suffer because of whatever happens to them, that they are powerless to do anything about what is going on in their lives. Confident Christ people know they can pray for wisdom to act, strength to endure, and peace to continue to live life in the midst of the storm. Anxious people believe they are alone. Confident in Christ people know God will never leave them or forsake them. (Hebrews 13:5)
That is the Wisdom of Solomon from Proverbs 3 in a nutshell. Be a good steward. Be open to discipline. Be confident in Christ. If you test Him in stewardship, He will be faithful. If you open yourself up to His discipline, He will be loving. If you place your confidence in Him, He will see you through.