11-17-13 Faith Fosters Philanthropy Gen. 14
“Faith Fosters Family, Freedom, and Philanthropy”? Genesis 14; Philippians 4:11-13
Genesis 14:11-24; Philippians 4:11-13 ?Faith Fosters Financial Freedom? ?11-17-13
Amy Carmichael said, ?You can be a giver and not love but you can?t be a? person of love and not give.?? I might change that a bit and say “You can be a person who gives and not have faith; but it is hard to be a person of faith and not give.”? It does not depend on how much you have.? Our goal is to follow the person of love- Jesus who gave.? Jesus did not rebuke the widow for being generous in putting in her mite.? Instead He said she was blessed.? Certainly Jesus gave all he had.
Christian members of the Karen people in Burma wanted to send a missionary to a neighboring tribe to tell them about Jesus.? They knew the benefits of knowing Christ and they wanted others to know Him to- their neighbors.? These Karen had nothing- they were primarily rice growers.? So what they meticulously did was count out their rice and lay aside every tenth grain for the missionary who was to come.?? They did this until the missionary had as much rice as they had.? The end of the story is the missionary went and the new church became bigger than the sending one.? It doesn’t matter what you have, but that you want to?give and your heart is right.
Abraham was the father of our faith.? It is no accident, I believe that Abraham also was the father of the tithe.? Faith in God affects giving for God.? Abraham gave 10% to Melchizedek- priest of the Most High God, and King of Salem.? Salem means ?city of peace? and later Salem?s name was changed to Jerusalem. ??Abraham?s faith caused him to love his family, to find freedom, and to give freely.
I. FAITH FOSTERS FAMILY FIRST-? I think we all are aware of those who beat the ?Family Values? drum and gloss over that every family is a bit dysfunctional and a bit broken.? Yet, family is important to faith and has been important since the time of Abraham- the father of our faith.? When Jesus said to love our neighbor, that begins with those right around us- family.
A. Abraham was willing to step out in courage and faith to save Lot. Lot was Abraham?s nephew who left with him from Ur. ?Abraham was willing to risk the rest of his family and his wealth to rescue his nephew.? ?When one part of the family is hurting they all are hurting.? When one member is in pain, they all are in pain.? So, though it was not his fight Abraham fought an outnumbered battle and won an amazing victory against the powerful kings of the fertile crescent.??? He gave thanks to God.? He did not care about the money or the booty- he cared about his family.
We live in a day in which many value things above people and money above family.? I would rather be surrounded by loved ones and poor than rich and die alone.? But some sacrifice family, love, life in order to get more and more money.? J. Paul Getty was at one time the richest person in the world but he had multiple wives and his children hated him and he spent his last years alone.? He said he felt very lonely because he found that most people liked him only because he had money.?? Howard Hughes also was one of the richest men in the world but valued money and womanizing above anything else.? Most say his reclusive nature was brought on by sexually transmitted diseases.? Anna Nicole Smith was 26 when she divorced her husband to marry Texas millionaire J. Howard Marshall then 89.? They never lived together.? He died 13 months later and the estate went through court lawsuits through the rest of her life.? She ended up losing custody of her daughter and overdosing on pills.? The visible lesson I hope we can see is value people above money.?? Abraham, the father of our faith, did.
II. FAITH FOSTERS FREEDOM- Jesus said ?You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.??? There is real freedom that comes from having purpose, meaning, and direction in your life.? We give up our freedom when we are living solely for things.
A. Freedom from captivity. Faith enabled Abraham to try against the odds to free his nephew.? It set Lot free.? But it is also probably true that the kings of Elam and their allies would have made Abraham their vassals.
B, Freedom that enables us to be thankful- Abraham gave thanks for deliverance of his own army and the people of Lot.? Pilgrims were set free from starvation to give thanks.? When we are provided for we give thanks.? ?Abraham gave everything to save Lot.? He was also willing to let go of it all.? He was not encaptured by his booty.
John Winthrop, the leader of the Pilgrims, nine years after the first Thanksgiving of 1621 said that there is still a rare time when we must sell all and give to the poor.? There is also he said a time when Christians are called to give beyond their ability as the Macedonians did (2 Cor. 6).? Likewise when the community is in peril, this calls for extraordinary generosity and the same when there are special needs for the church.?? Winthrop knew that when God provides for us- we should be grateful and thoughtful for the greater needs of the community and church.
III. FAITH FOSTERS FREE PHILANTHROPY- Abraham gave a tithe as part of his gratitude to God and gave it to the priest.? Then he gave the rest of the booty as payment to his allies and to the King of Sodom.? The tithe was part of worship- and Abraham?s grandson, Jacob would tithe to God too (28:22).? Jacob said then, ?Of all that you give me- I will give you a tenth.?? The idea is that if God blesses us we acknowledge it by giving back to Him.? That is where charity not only originates from, charity is still inspired by faith that God provides today.? Giving away hard earned money is foolishness to the world and those enamored and stuck in this world?s viewpoint.?? But the people who have really had all the money they want- including Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Andrew Carnegie and Rockefeller would point out that giving it away is more fun than earning it.
Why do people who have faith give more than people who do not?
The statistics are pretty convincing.? Last year a study quote in Time said, Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina give more to charity than any other states- these states also have the highest religious participation than any other states.? ?Ironically, these states are not the richest states, but SC and MS are among the poorest.? ??Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent). And, consistent with the findings of other writers, these data show that practicing a religion is more important than the actual religion itself in predicting charitable behavior?.(Roper poll 2000)
Why is this? The more I live and see the more I believe that having faith allows us to not be so stingy with this life.? Faith allows us to loosen our grip our tight hold so that we don?t become hoarders.? In the book and now movie The Hobbit– the dragon loved hoarding but the best of the characters gave of themselves to a higher cause.? People of faith have been taught it is more blessed to give than to hoard and they have actually tested that out.
The ironic part is that the more we have the more we hoard.? The percentage of our income that we give to charity decreases the more we have.? People who make under $100,000 give almost twice the percentage as people who make over it.? It is a self-deceiving idea to think that we do not need to give because when people receive they may not handle money properly.? For one thing, we believe that everything we have is a gift from God- that applies to the hardest worker and the laziest.? It applies to the one who inherits everything and the one who inherits nothing.? Every breath we take is a gift from God.? If God were to hold back we would not be alive to enjoy our things.? But God also gives us the talent and ability ? and allows us to be in the right place at the right time to be blessed.? God blesses us- and frankly- each gift we have is a blessing but also a test to see if we are able to have generous or selfish hearts.? It is easy to be generous when it doesn?t hurt.
If you go to Bomb Island on Lake Murray in August you will see swarms of Purple Martins going in many different directions at once.? It is the largest roost of Purple Martins in North America with over 750,000 going in and out.? Watch them and they change directions quicker than a tailback evading a tackler.? Yet. They clearly have direction- flying from South America to Lake Murray and back.. Sometimes I feel like at the end of the year we are pulled in a hundred different directions in the way we give- yet believers are reminded of our eternal purpose in the way we give.? You know there are 501,000 foundations and charities around in America today.? Many of them will send you a letter or try to call or contact you.? Educational foundations, hospital foundations, healthcare causes will tug and pull on you.? Today less than a third of our charitable giving goes to the Lord?s work.? Our eternal faith is not seen as important as our bodies or our minds.? But let me remind you, that our bodies and minds wear out but our souls are an investment for eternity.? If you do not believe me then take a stroll a mile away to the Lowman Home.? We give to what we value as important.? The great news is the Bible says that God sees what we give and He rewards us more than any earthly reward.
When I look and see what God is doing in our midst it is amazing.? You cannot measure the difference a life turned around makes.? I see our young people going into ministry– Casey Washington in seminary, Beth Moody in campus ministry at NC State, Becca Hancock- visiting orphans in Africa for two summers, Laura Edwards in Kenya, Austin Shelly at Princeton Seminary, Brandon Frick in Florida, Ryan McCrary at Great outdoor Adventure Ministry- and there are many others going into secular professions but keeping and spreading the love and grace of Christ to others.? Just this past week Kyle Hite told our presbytery that LMPC influenced him and now he will be the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Greenwood.? I am so proud of our work with Thornwell Home for Children, and the HUB, Christgate, GoodWorks and We Care.We among the leading givers to each of those entities.? I think of Kenyon Brown who we referred to Thornwell and is now on a full scholarship at PC.? I am so excited about our church and its new members and baptisms.? I can tell you that one of my biggest concerns is not that we are shrinking like many mainline churches, but that we are growing.? I am concerned that we are reaching more and more people and during construction we will lose parking spaces and I do not want people leaving when they are trying to worship God.? I am very concerned that we have a growing church but only one full time pastor, and that we have pledged sacrificially to the new children?s building, but we have this huge challenge to keep the ball rolling.? I am not ashamed to ask people to give to God because everything we have is from God- and I really do believe it is more blessed to give than to receive.? It is the challenge of Abraham?s tithing example to let go of things and give thanks to God.