Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).
There are 100,000 causes out there, many of which we might spend our energies on and which would add something positive to the world. How do we choose what we do? How do we choose where we spend time and emotional energy?
There are two competing stories. One story says that the world happened apart from any person; there is no God; what we see is all that is. Through science we may master the world and shape it in our image. In essence, we are god and we are creating this world. It is still creation week. We fit things in or eliminate them. We determine which are good causes and which bad ones by our own measure.
The other is the Christian story. Humans did not create the world; God created humans. God is Master of the universe and has added numerous intelligences to it and given those intelligence free agency. To humans He gave the most godlike of qualities: morality. He is the Creator; He determines right and wrong; He is the Measure and Measurer. We determine what are good causes or bad ones by God's measure.
Many are living by the first story, trapped in it, absorbed in it, while in some primitive way they seek to fit it into the Christian story. But what we must do is live in and by the Christian story.
Simply put, this life is the test: and the question is, Which story rules?
We choose to be Christians. We combine together into congregations. We need the influence of each other; I need yours and you need mine. If we go it alone how easy to isolate ourselves and give ourselves license. When believers don't do this, they become spiritually sloppy and in the end--never intending it--they become servants of themselves rather than the Most High. And so we avoid that. We combine together for service to God and each other and to all humanity. We serve even the non-Christian by living example lives before Him, and, by telling to him the truth about Jesus and the human situation. All need Jesus. Our primary service to humankind is to show them the Christian story in contrast to the godless story. We show the superiority of the Christian story as it actually tells the truth about the world.
It is advantageous for people to know the truth about the world. It is useful to know which foods are poisonous, what poison oak looks like, and that falling from a high place would be fatal.
The Bible tells us that the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). She is the keeper of the boundaries of truth, the fount of its revelation to the world. The Church is God's agent, not only His fortress but also His mothership. Whether by accident or design, the trends round us have made the state dominant over all things, undermining and destroying anything that might compete with it. The family has been almost redefined out of existence, and likewise with other entities. The church is one of those few left standing that might offer something different. The church with all its flaws and defects remains the object Jesus watches with special care. He has preserved her through many trials to this day, and will through more trials just crossing into view from beyond the horizon. Still she stands.
Consider our passage today. Jesus has just instructed His followers to pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Then you come to Matthew 6:16. The topic is fasting. Jesus calls for reform; people are not to make a show out of it, but to keep their fasting private. Don't do your fasting in public to impress other people with your supposed piety. Do it in private, says Jesus, so that it will actually be a spiritual benefit to you. He is warning us about where we keep our spiritual treasure. Are we seeking the approval of other humans, or, the approval of God? Where are we holding our treasure?
In verse 19, if we make the earth the storage place for our treasures, we are preserving them in a bag that is full of holes. This earth is passing away. Everything here is impermanent. This is true of the mountains and trees and rocks, but it is also true of those who inhabit the world. Always there are persons lurking ready to steal your electronic identity and spend your money, or to smash and grab valuables left visible in your automobile. But Jesus tells us to store up our treasures in heaven. Nothing there is corrupted or lost. No thieves will break in and grab there. The principle is seen at verse 24. None of us can serve two masters. We are so constituted, so designed, that we can only serve one. Only one thing or one person can be our master.
Christians make Jesus our Master. Not money, not the approval of others, not our favorite hobby or activity, not even our spouse can take the place of Jesus. Jesus is Lord. We want to serve Him and put all things in our life into His service. The UCC is a grouping of some 110 churches and over 26,000 members. In turn, the Conference is part of the North Pacific Union, which includes all of our work in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. The North Pacific Union is part of the North American Division, which is one of the 13 divisions of the world church which make up the General Conference. We have churches in more than 230 nations around the world. God's grace is going forward in a worldwide work and you and I are part of it!
But the foundation of all of this really is the local church, little congregations like Deer Park all over the planet. Let's think together for a few minutes about how our local church operates.
The tithe is a distinct portion of our giving. Beside that we give free will offerings. The idea behind free will offerings is that we give to help the work advance in our locak part of Jesus' vineyard. We have these little envelopes which can help you direct your giving. For example, local church budget is an important part. It helps us pay for electricity, replacing lightbulbs, printer cartridges, and many other things. Your free will offerings help fund the different needs we have for paying for our Bible worker Joel Haywood, helping fund our downtown outreach that feeds and clothes the homeless. You help fund our Pathfinders and Adventurer and Vacation Bible School programs.
We also have a designated offering that occurs each Sabbath. Any moneys you donate to the church that you do not specifically mark on your envelope, that is, any many you put into the offering, goes to that weeks designated offering. That can go to Dorcas, disaster relief, heloing fund an Adventist University, a special project, Christian Record Braille, and so many other worthy programs.
You do not hear us speak very much about these things. We want to keep a high spiritual focus and we don't want to blow our own horn and pat ourselves on the back because we gave so well toward this or that good project. At the same time, it is one of the real, rubber-meets-the-road parts of what we do and how the kingdom of God works in this part of His vineyard, so not every year, but from time to time we want to remind you of this aspect of the work we are engaged in, and which you, as a congregation, do with might! We don't want to make a major focus on this, but we do have a duty to be transparent.
We want you to know that our treasurer, church board, our conference and General Conference strive to use the moneys entrusted to them wisely. We are very carefully audited. If you have any questions, I invite you to speak to me, or to our treasurer Ken Parr, or I can also place you in touch with the treasurer for this conference, elder Terry Randall.
At our church business meeting last month, you, the Deer Park church, asked that a Sabbath message be presented addressing the question of the church, its financial needs and opportunities.
The Bible contains considerable revelation on this area. Whether Old or New Testament, there is abundance. Let us focus however on a few points of interest from the New Testament. There are many telling incidents. Jesus speaks of our returning tithes and offerings positively, saying "these you ought to have done" (Matthew 23:23), but He reminds His hearers that just doing is even more important. The rigid, rulebound giving of the Pharisees while their heart was far from God, comes in for severe censure. But the believer who is faithful to God is commended. Think of the widow in Luke 21:1-14 who waited while the rich trumpeted their offerings and then silently dropped into the offering all that she had. No one else saw her put in her pittance, her tiny, low value coin. But Jesus did. And He commended her for it and pointed to its great value. She had given all she had for the kingdom. The rich givers had shared from their excess.
Some sugest that tithing and giving offerings somehow ceased with the sacrifice of Christ. And yet, consider Romans 12:1, 2:
"I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
Yes, Jesus died on the cross for us. But His sacrifice does not end sacrifice. Rather, it calls forth from the believer in Jesus sacrifice. He is our Lord, we copy Him in those ways that it is apprpriate to copy Him. No, we do not die to on a cross as He, but because He died on a cross, we give ourselves wholly to Him. We make our lives a living sacrifice to Him, for Him, for His kingdom. We enter into His work, the work of His church.
In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians and the ninth chapter, we learn many things that pertain to the work of God's church today. For example at verse seven, "Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?" Verses 10 and 11: "the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?" Verses 13 and 14: "Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel."
Paul received support for his work of ministry through the Philippian church (Philippians 4:15) but he often chose not to exercise his privilege of receiving sustenance in gospel work through other believers. But the provision and the plan is in this passage confirmed as a part of the plan of God. That the work of the gospel may go forward, that some workers may devote themselves to this work, the church is directed to sustain them financially. The tithe you return through the church to God provides financial support for the workers of the church. You thus support workers called to lead, to evangelize, to do missionary labor.
The tithe this two-church district returns provides financial support for multiple pastors, both here in this conference and in far flung reaches overseas. We are a world church. In the mercy of God he ahs raised up this entity to facilitate the presentation of the end-time message which draws hearts to Jesus that we read of in Revelation 14:6:
"And I saw another angel flying in the midst of heven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, to every nation, and kidred, and tongue and people." The tithe dollars that are God's, and that you return to God through this church are helping accomplish this very proclamation.
We recall that tithe is an old fashioned word meaning ten percent, and it is the ten percent we return directly to God which stands for or signifies His ownership of 100% of our resources. God owns all that you own. He lets you use it. He asks that we return the tenth to Him, not to remind Him but to remind ourselves that He is our ultimate Owner. We are His by creation and His all over again by redemption. He paid the ultimate price for us, He bought us back. Your local church does not keep even one cent of the tithe. It is all sent back to God through His storehouse. For practical purposes, we regard the conference office to be His storehouse.
Our tithe dollars are returned to the Upper Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. This is the geographical area that we are part of. It includes all of Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho, and a portion of Northeastern Oregon.
God uses His church to proclaim His truth. Through the church we are mutually accountable to God and to each other.
Deer Park WA SDA 2016-03-19