Michael Youssef - Healthy Living in a Sick World - Part 21
There is a serious side as to why the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, decided to teach on giving immediately after he was teaching on the resurrection of Jesus and our own resurrection. We saw in the last message, chapter 15, amazing instruction, amazing teaching, amazing comfort, then when he showed us the relationship between Jesus's resurrection and our own resurrection. And then, all of a sudden, as if he's getting ready to close the book, as he finished the epistle, the apostle said, "Now concerning the collection".
You'll have to ask the question, why? Why after he reached heaven itself, why must he go back to the nitty gritty issues of money and giving of money? Why? And I'm telling you that's a great question, I'm so glad you asked it because the apostle is going to answer it. Because heaven and money are interrelated. Heaven and money giving are intertwined. Heaven and money giving are intrinsically linked. Money and how you use money is closely tied up to the mansion in the sky. And that's precisely what the Bible teaches. This is not just one verse taken out of context. This is the entire biblical teaching.
Jesus said, "The thief will not steal that money that you gave to the Lord, and the rust will not destroy it". Listen to me, I know the stock market can collapse. I know that the price of gold and silver can crumble. I know that the value of the dollar can tank. But what you give to the Lord will never, never, never not bear dividends, here and now and for eternity. Look with me again in detail, 1 Corinthians 16, but particularly verse 2. Here's the apostle reaching and teaching us a profound truth about giving. He is saying that when we give back to God, it ought not to be haphazardly.
When we give back to God, it ought not to be in response to some emotional appeal. When we give to God, ought not to be in response to whoever screams the loudest. Or it not to be done out of feeling of guilt and whomever makes you feel guilty. Here in 1 Corinthians 16, the Word of God is helping us to exercise our spiritual responsibility toward laying up treasures in heaven. And it goes as follows. Remember those three points? I'm going to come back to them again and again. He is teaching us to give with a planned regularity. He is teaching us to give with personal responsibility. And then he's teaching us thirdly to give proportionately.
The one thing that you will notice about biblical giving, it is not based on impulse. How do I know that? Because the Word of God here speaks about the collection in the context of the triumph of the resurrection. In the same breath where the Apostle Paul speaks of the fundamental doctrine, the core, the rock bed of the Christian faith, namely the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, he speaks about the offertory, in the same breath. He moves immediately from the triumph of the resurrection to the triumph of the collection. And the Apostle Paul here is obviously answering some questions that the Corinthians, we saw that in the very beginning.
Corinthians were asking question, "How do I give? Where do I give? How..." And he answers all these questions, but I don't want you to miss what he did not say. I don't want you to miss what he did not say. He did not say give if you feel like it, or give out of sentiment and emotions, or give out of impulse or crisis. No, that is not biblical. The Apostle Paul wanted to teach us to give based on principle, not on impulse. He wanted them to develop a holy habit, not a holy huddle mentality. He said we give with a sense of planned regularity. Look at verse 2 with me please. "On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum".
Now, the grammar here is very important because it's an emphatic mood. You say, "What does that mean? Why is that"? Because Paul wants to drive home the point on the first day of the week. Why is the first day of the week an emphatic? Why is that important? Because Jesus rose on the first day of the week. Jesus appeared to the disciples twice, every time was on the first day of the week. The early Christian church, who were all Jewish, remember that, they were all Jewish, they changed from worshiping on Saturday to Sunday because of this all-significant event of the resurrection.
The first day of the week was far more significant to the early church than we can ever imagine because we did not live there and we read about it. But listen to me, think with me, think with me. They saw with their own eyes their Lord, whose eyes have been closed in death. They saw their Lord, whose lips were stilled in death. They saw the Lord, whose body was placed in the cave of death. But then on the third day, on Sunday morning, early hours of Sunday morning, he opened up that grave and he walked out, leaving an empty tomb. And that is why they immediately began to gather every early Sunday mornings, every early Sunday morning to celebrate the glorious resurrection event.
That was the beginning of it. They did this to celebrate the resurrection and bring the collection. Both go hand in hand. Don't miss it, don't miss it, you'll miss out on a blessing. But if we truly comprehend that giving is to be in the context of the resurrection, then we would stand up every Sunday morning as we come to worship, and say and sing, "Up from the grave he arose. He lives, he lives. Christ Jesus lives today". And then deposit our collection at the altar. Why? Because our giving is an integral part of our personal celebration of Jesus's resurrection. And the anticipation of our own resurrection, as we saw from chapter 15. And that is why the Apostle Paul, exactly what he meant by planned regularity.
Secondly, he said that our giving is an individual responsibility, every one of us. And he said that. Look at verse 2 again with me, chapter 16. He said, "On the first day of the week, each," can you say that with me? "Each one of you should set aside". Each one of you. When the Apostle Paul said each, each of you is in the emphatic position, which means it towers above the other words. The word "each," say it again, towers over them. What does that mean? Each one of us means no exception, no exception, no exception. If you followed this series of messages, we've seen how not many of the Corinthians were really powerful people or rich people, and he says that. He said, "Not many of you are prominent". They were very ordinary people.
In fact, they were modest means. But the apostle exempted no one. This is the most amazing thing. Let each of you, each of you, that is personal responsibility. I was ordained into the ministry and I was unfaithful with my tithe and offering. It's the absolute truth. I'm gonna explain to you. See, I tried to explain to God that I have given myself full-time to the ministry, therefore I don't need to tithe. And I'm telling you, the Holy Spirit was very clear, "Youssef, put the cash in there," every time. But in those days, I used to think that I could bargain with God, I really did.
Until 1972, that was the beginning of God working on me. I was a seminary, that's my first year in seminary, 1972. And I was working in a parish, in a church as a student pastor not far from the city of Sydney. But it's an older suburb, and so many of the parishioners were widows, they were shut-ins, and they couldn't even come to church. And so, I went and asked the rector, I said, "Can I take one afternoon every week and go and visit these people"? And I'll tell you, it was the highlight of my year. Most of them, as I said, were elderly and widows and were living on what we call Social Security, period.
And after I visit with them and I pray with them and about to leave, invariably, invariably one of them would say, "Wait a minute, wait a minute, don't leave yet. I have not been able to take my envelopes..." The church as a denomination used to send out 52 envelopes. Every Sunday, people will put the money in the envelopes and put it in the offering plate. And so, they would say, "Wait a minute, I haven't been able to take the money to the church. I haven't been able to find somebody that will take it". And there may be two, three, or four envelopes left, and they have them all stacked up, and they will hand it to me.
And I'm confessing to you what went on through my mind when I held onto those envelopes, and it is to my shame, I would hold these envelopes in my hand and I look at the conditions where they were living, and I'm tempted to say, "Oh no, not you, not you. You can't afford this. We need to come here and help you out". Why? Because I was unfaithful in my giving. But thank God I never done it. Had I done that, I would have deprived these precious people of unspeakable blessings that comes from giving back to God. My attitude was that exact opposite of the Lord Jesus Christ. It's exact opposite of the Lord Jesus, that was my attitude.
Because his last act of public ministry, when he stood there over against the treasury in the temple, watching as these individual wealthy ones coming with music and trumpet, and they deposit their gifts in the treasury box with song and dance and noise, and they were giving out a pittance out of their wealth. And there he watched and saw a poor widow, probably was hiding and probably was not trying to show what she has in her hand, and it was a mite. Our precious Lord Jesus, whose eyes penetrate into the very secrets of our hearts, knew that this was her all. It wasn't 10%, 20%, or 30%, it was her all.
And instead of Jesus saying to her, "Stop, you cannot do this, you cannot afford this. You are too poor to do this. You need to go inside and see the priest, they can help you," no, our Lord commended her for all of the ages. And here we are in the 21st century talking about her. Our Lord said, "Look at her, look at what she did". And then he went out and did exactly the same, he gave his all, he gave his life. Beloved, the principle of personal responsibility and stewardship cannot be avoided. Listen to me again, the principle of individual stewardship cannot be avoided. The only time God invited us as people, as his followers, as his children to test him, you remember in the wilderness?
The temptation said, he said to the devil, "You must not test the Lord your God or put your God to the test". But there's only one time in the entire Bible that God said, "Test me," and that's in the area of money giving. He said, "Test me and see if I don't open the floodgates of heaven and pour out much blessings". Planned regularity, personal responsibility. And the third thing, which actually drives the first two, proportionate return. "On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside a sum in keeping with his income," the NIV said. But I like the old translation, "As God has prospered you".
As God has prospered you, I love that. That's actually closer to the meaning. It means returning to God a portion of what God has blessed you with. Now beloved, listen to me, the marvelous wisdom of God. Listen to me, the marvelous wisdom of God's teaching here is it places the burden where the burden belongs. And the burden's not on you. Where's the burden placed? On God. It completely rests with God. When the tide comes in and you have great material blessings, you return to him the same percentage as when the tide goes out. And it comes in and goes out to all of us.
And my beloved friends, that means that the basis of our giving is God's blessings in our lives, that's the basis. And no one, no one, no one, no one can cheat God. If you don't believe me, ask somebody who tried. As far as God is concerned, when you are faithful with a dollar, you're going to be faithful with $1 million. That's the principle in which Jesus said, "He who is faithful with little going to be faithful with much". But I can hear somebody saying, "Well, you see, Michael, Paul didn't say anything about 10%". He didn't say anything about tithing, you're right, you're listening carefully, you're reading carefully. Because he didn't have to say it.
Dr. Lindsell has done the most massive work on book which he calls, "The Sacred Tenth". In that book, he demonstrates from ancient literature that the earliest people, the earliest people from the Akkadians to the Samaritans and the Assyrians and the Babylonians and the Greeks and even the Hebrew people who taught us that 10% is the minimum, they all have practiced what you call the sacred tenth. Why? Because we're created in God's own image. And because Adam and Eve was instructed to offer a sacrifice to God, and therefore they passed it on.
Even when these nations have become pagan, they still practiced the sacred tenth. Abraham gave the sacred tenth of his entire net worth, not just his income, to Melchizedek, who's a type of Christ. That was 400 years before the law was given to Moses. So, nobody tells me that's legalistic. Proportionate giving is both fair and flexible. If God had thundered from heaven and says, "I want every one of you to give $10,000," that would not be fair, would it? For some people with large income, that wouldn't even touch their lifestyle. And for Prospera students, they probably haven't seen $10,000. And that is why God does not thunder from heaven an amount that tells us everybody should... No, he said proportionate.
Now, here's a use of opinion, you know what to do with it, okay? When the tide of life comes in, the tenth is a starting place. When the tide of life goes out, the tenth is the minimum. Paul's final message to the Corinthians is to give with planned regularity, personal responsibility, and proportionately.
My beloved friends, I want you to take those three biblical principles, this biblical teaching, and you look at the risen Savior, the center of our faith. And look at wounded love, look at bleeding mercy, and look at the empty tomb. And say, "I know I'm supposed to be a responsible steward, but I don't care".
I don't believe for a moment anybody here or even watching around the world will be able to do that. I really don't believe it. I believe all of us would want to say, "I want to give with planned regularity, and I want to give with personal responsibility, and I want to give proportionately". But I know that this message may be premature to some of you, that you have not yet surrendered your life to Jesus Christ.
This is premature for you because the Lord wants you before he wants of the resources that he gave you. He wants your repentance and he wants your faith, and he wants your surrender to him before he wants what he's given you. It is my ardent prayer that for those who know the Lord, have been walking with the Lord for years, and sat back and sat back and sat back, and said, "Somebody else will do it. Somebody else will do it," then you're missing out on the unbelievable blessing that God could absolutely open the windows of heaven, as he himself promised. I pray that you'll commit to saying, "Lord, today I'll become a brand new steward of all the resources that you placed in your hand, so help me Lord," amen?