11/24/02, Tithing/Thanksgiving

Leviticus 27:30; Malachi 3:10; Luke 6:38; 12:20

hen asked at a press conference what his best investment was, John Templeton, billionaire founder of the Templeton Group of mutual funds, answered, "Life's greatest investment is the tithe!" Most reporters present that day had never heard of tithing, but they all researched it immediately after the press conference because they had great respect of John Templeton who had initiated the million dollar annual Templeton Prize in 1972 for progress in religion. He was later knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1987 for his philanthropic efforts, including his endowment of Templeton College of Oxford University. Many have come to appreciate his current Templeton Foundation for its grants to universities and scholars for their research into the harmony between scientific discovery and religion.

What most people do not know is that Sir John Templeton was born in rural Winchester, Tennessee and initially felt called into full time Christian service. He was taught to tithe his income by his parents, as were many of us. Today, at a vigorous 87 years, he considers his investment in God's plan of tithing as his calling. His relationship with Christ, as a youth, led him to become a serious student and a disciplined person of high moral character. He graduated from Yale University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford. One of the scriptural themes of his life is from one of Jesus' sermons, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over for with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you." (Lk. 6:38, KJV)

The point of this is that each of us, as believers, can do what John Templeton has done. By placing Jesus Christ first in our lives and committing our all to Him, and by tithing ten percent of our income, we can receive the same blessings that he has received. Tithing is an equal opportunity investment in that the one who tithes on a small income is just as blessed spiritually as one who tithes on a billion dollar income, even though the secular world might present accolades to the John Templetons and other philanthropists.

Through the power and direction of the Holy Spirit, God can do something wonderful with the remainder of our days if we will allow Him to magnify our inward and highest spiritual desire to become a liberal giver. One of the basic works of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is to ennoble our desire to live more for others and not just for ourselves. We know that every one who becomes a Christian is given a special calling, just for them. One of the basic callings is to become a tither. Every believer is challenged to lay aside ten-percent for the work of their church.

Of course, every preacher in Methodism is pointing out that if we all obeyed God's call, our churches would quadruple their offerings. Don't misunderstand us, we are not saying that you will all go to hell for not tithing, for we are saved by Grace and not all of us are currently at the same level of the spiritual growth that should occur after initial Grace. However, one can cot meander along the roadway of a new life in Christ for long without bumping into the then seemingly high hurdle of tithing. As a result of not leaping the barrier with faith, some seem to stagnate at a low level and become so much less in God's Kingdom than He has in mind for us. The great regret of advanced age is not the natural bumps and failures, but the loss of the dreams of one's youth. Humanity's highest ideal is the desire to become a person who yearns to live for the welfare of others. However, that old handicap called human sin prevents us from doing so and gradually turns us into selfish egotists. But the Good News is that God can forgive our sins and failures of the past and can restore the dream, and re-implant the visions, which we once struggled to attain. Through God's work within our lives it is no longer a lonely struggle but becomes a mutual joy that we share in partnership with the God who is able to accomplish great things through our lives.

If you have fought many years against God's challenge to begin to tithe you can begin today. You can take the pencil in your pew rack and cross out the small estimate of giving that you had written and write in a tithe of your anticipated income, and then bring it down and present it on the Altar rail as we sing our closing hymn. It is always a beautiful sight to witness the annual pageantry of God's people responding to His call.

We make many great investments in life, the greatest of which is the tithe. God's guarantee is that if we will honor Him with the tithe, He will bless us to overflowing. His great blessings are not like some of the unwise investments that most of us have made in the past. We have attempted to make our own decisions at times and have lost sight of His directions. Some of my investment decisions have not been so great. On my birthday in 1986 the stock market took one of its deepest dives. Marilyn and I had been in a mutual fund for only a couple of years and were novices at riding out market swings. It was very frightening for us so we called a friend who used to be stock broker and she advised us to sell, even at a deep loss. However, if we had left our little investment alone it would be a lot today. But, that's the way that worldly investments sometimes work out. However, when we invest in spiritual things the reward is always great.

Not only does tithing bring us blessings in this world, but Jesus said that the greatest spiritual investment is to lay up for ourselves "treasures in heaven, and not treasures on earth." (Mt. 6:20) Tithing is a way to invest in our heavenly reward. You might call it our "Eternal Retirement Plan." Jesus' Parable of the Rich Fool is told that we might know that our lives consist of much more than the abundance of things that we can store in barns. The Rich Fool accumulated all of the toys but just when he did his soul was required of him and Jesus asks, "Then whose shall these things be?" (Lk. 12:20)

On this Thanksgiving Sunday we are giving you an opportunity to express your gratitude to God by bringing your personal, or family, Pledge Card down to the Altar Rail for commitment to Him. Make it your best investment, make it a tithe!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

11/24/02, Tithing/Thanksgiving