It’s almost over, can you feel it in the air? There is almost an electricity in the air as people wait expectantly for March to be over. They don’t care what Denn will be preaching next week or the week after that, they just know it won’t be about money.

Our theme this month has been, “How much?” And we’ve talked about how much should we have, and how much should we save.

When I talk to people about giving, a question that is usually asked is “How much should I give?” and it’s a valid question.

But it’s not always an easy answer. Having pastored for over forty years, I have discovered that some people love to give, and for them, they can never give enough. Others give because they have to. They give out of what they perceive to be a religious obligation and still others never give a thing.

I remember Angela’s dad telling me of visiting a church years ago and when the time came for the offering; the preacher encouraged his congregation to give out of their means and not out of their meanness.

Now I know that there is someone out there who is thinking “Aha, Denn’s going to talk about money, and I hate it when Denn talks about money.” You think you hate it when Denn talks about money? You have no idea how I feel when Denn has to talk about money?

But it’s something that has to be done occasionally. It is the responsible thing to do. After all, do you really want to be kept in the dark about our finances? How would you feel if someday you arrived for church and there was a note on the door that said, “due to financial problems Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is no longer able to operate, please feel free to attend one of the other five churches in Hammonds Plains.”

I’m sure that most of you, I hope most of you, would think, “This is terrible; I wish I had known.”

In my twenty-eight years of pastoring Cornerstone, I have never ever suggested a dollar amount that anyone in this church should give, and I never will. And I have never treated anyone differently because of what they do or don’t give.

You may have noticed that our treasurer didn’t do our step-up presentation last week. That wasn’t an oversite, it was planned. For the past twenty years, we’ve had Mike provide information on how many people gave at various steps at Cornerstone.

The chart looked like this. This year I simply want to mention that over the past twelve months at Cornerstone we’ve had folks who have given anywhere from an average of less than a dollar a week. That in the past fifty-two weeks, they have given less than fifty dollars that we could identify with them as a giver. And from that extreme, we’ve had several families who have given over $250.00 a week.

But how much others give is irrelevant.

In 2002 I decided that instead of preaching about money when we were behind or there was a financial crunch or crisis in the church, which comes across as scolding or begging, I would spend three or four weeks each year taking a biblical look at giving and stewardship, and this is the last Sunday of that series.

Which is good news because that means that starting next Sunday you have 11 months of money-free preaching. And really, who could ask for anything more.

So, the question remains, how much should you give?

A rich man asked Jesus in Matthew 19 what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, we pick up the conversation in Matthew 19:21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

That sounds like a lot.

Most of you would be familiar with the story in Mark’s gospel about the poor widow and her offering. If not, Jesus was in the temple one day and saw a widow drop two coins in the offering box.

And after watching her give her offering, we read this in Mark 12:43–44 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

She gave everything she had to live on. That sounds like a lot.

Now, before you get all in a panic, that isn’t where this message is going.

This morning we are going back into the Old Testament for the answer to the question, How Much?

In the passage that was read this morning, there was one line that defined King Hezekiah. Let’s look at it again. 2 Kings 18:5 Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time.

Most of you probably had never heard the name Hezekiah before today, and now you discover he was the greatest king to ever serve the Southern Kingdom.

Little history lesson here.

King David was considered to be the greatest King that Israel ever had, and after David came his son Solomon.

But it was after the death of Solomon that things took a turn for the worse. After a whole lot of infighting, Israel divides into the Northern Kingdom, often called Israel and the Southern Kingdom referred to as Judah.

And each kingdom had its own King. Some were good, but most were bad. Goes back to the old adage that was first coined by Lord Acton, the British historian, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

And so, for the most part, the Kings of both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms led their people far from God, either adopting the idolatrous practices of their neighbours or just fell into complete immorality.

This is what history records about Hezekiah’s father Ahaz, 2 Kings 16:2–3 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for sixteen years. He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had done. Instead, he followed the example of the kings of Israel, even sacrificing his own son in the fire. In this way, he followed the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites.

And so, Ahaz’s son, Hezekiah, became King, seven hundred years after the people of Israel entered the promised land and seven hundred years before Jesus was born, and he was committed to turning the nation back to God.

And that was the introduction to the message.

Hezekiah knew that if he was going to move the people back to worshipping God that it would begin with the Temple. Our worship is seldom a solitary exercise. It seems that God historically calls his people to come and worship him together.

There is something about worshipping God as a collective. There is a synergy, energy and accountability that comes with being with like-minded people. That is why we worship together as a church. Can people worship by themselves? Yep, but it’s hard and God knew that and so that is why the plan has been to come together for worship.

And in 2 Chronicles chapter 31 we see the initial process of re-instituting the temple worship in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 31:2–4 Hezekiah then organized the priests and Levites into divisions to offer the burnt offerings and peace offerings, and to worship and give thanks and praise to the Lord at the gates of the Temple. The king also made a personal contribution of animals for the daily morning and evening burnt offerings, the weekly Sabbath festivals, the monthly new moon festivals, and the annual festivals as prescribed in the Law of the Lord. In addition, he required the people in Jerusalem to bring a portion of their goods to the priests and Levites, so they could devote themselves fully to the Law of the Lord.

The very first part of his plan involved equipping and empowering the priests and Levites. These were the men who did what had to be done daily to keep the temple running and make sure that everything was in place for the people to offer sacrifices and worship. And Hezekiah knew that this wasn’t only a spiritual exercise, it was also a practical exercise. That if all of these things were going to be put into place, it would involve giving. In verse three, it tells us that “The king also made a personal contribution. . .”

So, the giving started at the very top but that isn’t where it ended, so let’s move into verse 4

2 Chronicles 31:4 In addition, he required the people in Jerusalem to bring a portion of their goods to the priests and Levites, so they could devote themselves fully to the Law of the Lord.

Their Giving was Required. The King was under no illusion that resuming worship in the temple would be free or even cheap. And He knew that if he simply assumed that people would give, they probably wouldn’t give or wouldn’t give enough.

I am amazed at how little people have changed through the years. People’s passions, motives and thought processes were very much the same three thousand years ago as they are today.

And so, I would suspect that Hezekiah was probably well aware of the potential for people to either underestimate what it costs for the temple or overestimate how much others would give to support the temple and things haven’t changed. Through the years, I continue to be amazed that people either underestimate what it costs for the church or overestimate how much others will give to support the church.

In the first case, I don’t think it is a matter of neglect as much as a matter of ignorance. People either don’t think about it at all or they don’t do the math.

I didn’t. Until I started pastoring, it never crossed my mind. The church was there when I arrived to worship. It was warm; the lights were on; the building was clean; the pastor was there, and he preached. And never once did it cross my mind: “I wonder how they pay for this?” and if that thought had crossed my mind, I’m not sure that I would have been bright enough to have connected the dots and figured out how much it cost.

And Hezekiah knew that if the people of God were going to resume worship in the temple, there would be expenses involved.

Now, in saying that he required the people of Jerusalem to bring a portion of their goods, I’m not sure if there were consequences for not doing it.

I don’t know that they would have been turned away at the door to the temple if they hadn’t given. I don’t know if someone would have come to their door demanding that they give. But the King let them know that if they didn’t give, then there would be no temple and no priests and no sacrifices and no corporate worship.

Do we require that people at Cornerstone give? Yep, sure do. Does that mean that if you don’t give, you can’t worship here? Nope. Does that mean that if we are going to send someone around to your door looking for your offering envelope? Nope.

But if you don’t give there will be no Cornerstone. You understand that, right? If the people of Cornerstone don’t make the sacrifices necessary to pay the bills then the staff would be laid off, the building would be sold and there would be no Cornerstone. Because there is no magical pot that we go to for our funds.

And I think that every person who worships at Cornerstone should adopt the philosophy “If it’s gonna be, it’s up to me.” Because it’s not the other person’s responsibility, it is our responsibility.

You wouldn’t go to Montana’s and expect to eat for nothing or that the people at the table next to you should pay for yours. Well, you might, but you’d end up washing dishes.

Long before there were buildings, and staff people were giving as a part of their worship to God. The first story of worship in the Bible is found in Genesis 4:3–4 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock.

We need to get beyond thinking that giving to God is about God’s need to receive. Listen to what the word of God says in Psalm 50:7–11 “O my people, listen as I speak. Here are my charges against you, O Israel: I am God, your God! I have no complaint about your sacrifices or the burnt offerings you constantly offer. But I do not need the bulls from your barns or the goats from your pens. For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine.”

It’s not about God’s need to receive it is about our need to give. Because anything that doesn’t cost you something is worth exactly what you pay for it.

Listen again to verse 4 2 Chronicles 31:4 In addition, he required the people in Jerusalem to bring a portion of their goods to the priests and Levites, so they could devote themselves fully to the Law of the LORD.

Hezekiah didn’t require the people to give so he could have a nicer palace, so the kingdom could have nicer roads or so the people could have a better retirement. The reason was very clear it was so they could devout themselves fully to the Law of the Lord. Who was the “They”? “They” were the Priests and Levites, and the people gave so that “They” could commit themselves to full time to the ministry.

It was part of the practical aspect of the temple. If the temple was going to operate, then it needed someone to operate it, and if that was the case, then that someone had to be provided for.

Along with that would have been the tools that the priests needed to do what they had to do.

So how much were the people required to give? Listen to verse 4 again 2 Chronicles 31:4 In addition, he required the people in Jerusalem to bring a portion of their goods to the priests and Levites, so they could devote themselves fully to the Law of the LORD.

Their Giving was Equal. The king commanded them to bring a portion of their goods, and then the portion was defined. You see, we only hear “portion” but to the people of Jerusalem they heard “10%”. When the law was laid down over 700 years prior, it stated Leviticus 27:30 “One tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD and must be set apart to him as holy.” And it was reiterated in Deuteronomy 14:22 “You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.”

And you might think, “Well Denn you are just assuming that they knew it was 10%.” Maybe, but listen to the next verse 2 Chronicles 31:5 The people of Israel responded immediately and generously by bringing the first of their crops and grain, new wine, olive oil, honey, and all the produce of their fields. They brought a large quantity—a tithe of all they produced.

And just in case we missed it the story continues 2 Chronicles 31:6 The people who had moved to Judah from Israel, and the people of Judah themselves, brought in the tithes of their cattle, sheep, and goats and a tithe of the things that had been dedicated to the LORD their God, and they piled them up in great heaps.

Now, often when the tithe is mentioned, people will remind me that the tithe was an Old Testament concept.

However, when Paul was writing about money to the church in Corinth, this is what he wrote. 1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.

The believers in Corinth had a Jewish heritage, so I wonder what they assumed when Paul said that should put aside a portion of the money they had earned.

Another objection to the tithe is that the tithe wasn’t money in the Old Testament, it was produce and animals. Sure, because that was their currency in many cases.

When I was travelling in Ghana in each rural village we visited, the church folk would bring the tithes they had collected to Joe Ocran, the national superintendent.

And it wasn’t money, it was yams and chickens. Made for an interesting trip. And when we got back, Joe found a buyer for the chickens and yams and sold them and was able to send the cash back to the pastor for his salary and the expenses of the church.

In a worldly sense, it was like a “Flat tax”, so the poor person and the rich person each made the same sacrifice. They returned 10% and kept 90%.

That works the same way today, but there are two temptations that we need to be careful of. The temptation on the part of the poor person is to see how much the rich person gets to keep, and the temptation of the rich person is to see how little the poor person has to give.

But the original plan was that you gave 10% and kept 90%.

Cute story, I’ve told it before, it really has nothing to do with the message but it’s still worth telling. Two men have ended up marooned on an island in the South Pacific. You can fill in the blanks as to how they got there.

So, they are on the clichéic deserted island, with one palm tree, nothing to see but the ocean. One guy is in a complete panic, pacing back and forth, ranting about how they are going to die, hungry and alone, that nobody will stumble on them until they are nothing but bones. The other guy is sitting under the tree snoozing. Finally, the first man can’t stand it anymore and he demands, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you understand the situation?” To which the reply came, “Sure I do, we are stranded on this island hundreds of miles from anywhere” “Well aren’t you worried?” “Nope” came the reply “I make $10,000.00 a week.”

The first guy was at a complete loss. “What does that have to do with anything, you have no access to the money and no place to spend it if you did.” To which the second guy replied, “No you don’t understand, I make $10,000.00 a week and I tithe. My pastor will find me.”

Back to the message. Hezekiah shows up to see how things are going at the temple and he is absolutely floored by the amount of offerings that had been brought to the temple. The word says they were piled in great heaps and the King asked the priests, “Where did all this come from?” And the reply came in Chronicles 31:10 And Azariah the high priest, from the family of Zadok, replied, “Since the people began bringing their gifts to the LORD’s Temple, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare. The LORD has blessed his people, and all this is left over.”

The Giving Was Blessed. The last line in verse 10 says “The LORD has blessed his people, and all this is left over.”

The people were living well on their 90%. They had what they needed and because of their faithfulness, God’s work was provided for.

God didn’t ask them to take food away from their children. He didn’t ask that they sell their homes or not pay their bills. That’s what the 90% was for.

The prophet Malachi wrote these words 300 years after the story of Hezekiah, Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “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!”

You understand how blessed you are, right? And if all the people of Cornerstone gave out of their blessing, there would never be a financial issue in this church. But it really isn’t about the church’s need to receive and it really is about the believer’s need to give. God has done so much for us, how can we possibly hold back from him?

So where are you at today?

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