Give and Go

Acts 2:42-47

January 10, 2015 | Brian Bill

As a dad and his family were driving home after church he started complaining: “The music was too loud.  The sermon was too long.  The announcements were unclear.  The building was cold.  The people were unfriendly.”  He went on and on, finding fault with virtually everything.  His son, who was sitting in the backseat, was quiet for a moment as he thought back to what his dad had put in the offering and said, “Daddy, I thought it was a pretty good service for a buck!”

For many pastors, a sermon on giving and going ranks up there with getting a root canal.  Some pastors apologize for sermons on stewardship.  I don’t because stewardship is a key part of our spirituality.  I would have to apologize to God if I didn’t preach on money matters. 

I’m not out to make you feel guilty or to coerce you to part with some of your cash.  Rest easy…we’ve already taken the offering today.  Let me say that this sermon is addressed primarily to those of us who consider Edgewood to be our church home.  If you’re visiting, we’re thrilled that you’re here!  Please don’t feel like we’re after your money, because we’re not.  

They Devoted Themselves

Last week we looked at the first words of Acts 2:42: “And they continued steadfastly…” The idea is to give “one’s self continually…to be steadfastly attentive unto.”  We made this point that holds true for our focus today as well: The depth of our devotion will determine our impact.  We spent time fleshing out the importance of gathering with God’s people and growing in Christ.  

By the way, the hiring of a worship pastor lines up under our gather value and transitioning Pastor Tim to discipleship ministries will help shore up our growing value.  Calling a next generation pastor will enable us to continuing going to the millennials.  For more information about these steps, extra copies of our vision booklet from September are available on the resource table.

Let’s walk through Acts 2:42-47 again to see how the early church aligned itself.  I’ve inserted our 4Gs (Gather, Grow, Give and Go) to show that our vision and values come right out of Scripture.

42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine [Grow] and fellowship [Gather], in the breaking of bread [Gather], and in prayers [Gather].  43 Then fear came upon every soul [Gather], and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together [Gather], and had all things in common [Gather], 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need [Give] 46 so continuing daily with one accord in the temple [Gather], and breaking bread from house to house [Gather], they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God [Gather] and having favor with all the people [Go].  And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved [Go].

How are you doing at reading your Bible for ten minutes and praying five minutes a day for our gather, grow, give and go values?  If you’ve slipped, don’t feel guilty or ashamed…just start again today.  And, if you’re reading more than ten minutes a day and praying more than five, that’s great.  That’s actually the plan.  If we start with this doable amount, we’ll want to do more as our appetite increases for God’s Word and His will in our lives.

Our focus today is on giving what we’ve been given and going with the gospel to those who are lost.

Giving What We’ve Been Given

Look at verse 44-45: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” The early church was others-centered, not self-centered.  When they saw someone in need, they did whatever they could to help out.  The word “divided” means “to partition thoroughly.”  Here’s how they did it:

  • Through selling what they had – “…sold their possessions and goods…”
  • Through serving those in need – “…and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”

We see this also in 1 John 3:17: “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”  

The First Church of Jerusalem valued ministry over money, and people over possessions.  Acts 4:32 takes this to the next level: “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.”  The idea is that you and I have been given time, talents and treasures that are to be used for the good of others and for the glory of God.

Over the years I have found these two principles to be helpful.

1. What you have is not really yours.

Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  He has the rights, and I have the responsibility.  He is the Master and I am the manager.  I am the servant; He is the sovereign.  

Until we recognize this truth, we will not be good managers of what has been entrusted to us.  Our days are in His hands.  Our gifts and abilities are on loan from Him.  Even our money is an “advance” from the Almighty.  

A Christian who is not using what God has given is a contradiction in terms

A Christian who is not using what God has given is a contradiction in terms.  I like what Charles Spurgeon once said: “That only is worth my having which I can have forever.  That only is worth my grasping which death cannot tear out of my hand.”

2. Do what you can with what you have. 

These men and women were mobilized for ministry.  They understood that no one could do everything but everyone must do something.  Later, in Acts 11:29, in response to a need: “Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.” Remember this: We’re called to be contributors, not consumers.

Are you doing what you can with what you have?   Your responsibility is always tied to your ability.  In 1 Corinthians 3:5 we read, “…As the Lord has assigned to each his task.”  It’s our job to be faithful to what He has given us to do. 

As I look at that first church in Jerusalem, its clear that the depth of their devotion determined their impact and I see four serving imperatives for each of us:

  • Serve whenever you can.
  • Serve wherever you can.
  • Serve whoever is in need.
  • Be willing to do whatever it takes.

Terry Teykl tells the story of two workers who were doing something rather unusual.  One of them was digging a hole in the ground and the other was filling it back up.  After watching them dig and fill several holes in this manner, a bystander came up and asked them what was going on.  The first guy said, “Our job is to plant trees and usually there are three of us – one to dig the hole, one to plant the tree, and one to cover it up.  The guy who plants the tree called in sick today…but we’re here and we’re doing our jobs anyway.”

We all have work to do and if we don’t do our part there will be holes.  We have a ministry fair in the lobby today.  Can I encourage you to visit all the tables and see all the different serving possibilities that are available at Edgewood?

Giving in the Old Testament

Since the early church was geared to give, let’s see where this value came from.  They were really practicing principles that were established in the Old Testament and later fleshed out in the New.

About a year ago during our series called, “Step it Up,” we learned that God longs for a relationship with us as stated in Malachi 3:7: “‘Return to me and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of Hosts.”  Instead of returning wholeheartedly, they deny that they even have a problem: “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’” Malachi’s message is a call to return through growing in giving.

Please turn in your Bibles to Malachi 3:10: “‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.’”  Let’s look at the requirement, their response and the reward.

1. Requirement. 

The first thing we notice about giving in the Old Testament is the word “tithe,” which literally means “a tenth,” or 10%.  In Malachi’s time, the people had stopped bringing 10% of their possessions and crops to the Lord.  Instead of giving God what was rightfully His, they had allowed other things to get in the way. 

The deacons and pastoral team read a book recently called, “The Great Evangelical Recession” by John Dickerson.  He points out six factors that are radically eroding the American church.  One trend he spotlights is that giving among evangelicals is dropping severely.  On top of this, the older generation of evangelicals is by far the most generous, and many of them are being transferred to heaven each day.  If we don’t teach the next generation the delight and discipline of giving, the church and para-church ministries will be in deep trouble in the years to come.

Incidentally, according to a study by the Barna Research Group, while 17% of Christians claim to tithe, in actuality only 6% do so.  Christianity Today, in a 2008 article entitled, “Scrooge Lives,” reported that more than one out of four American Protestants give away no money at all – not even a token $5 per year.  In addition, the average churchgoer is only giving about 2% of their income to the Lord’s work.  That means that God is just getting the leftovers in many churches today.  

2. Response. 

God not only required a tithe in the Old Testament, He challenged His people to respond to Him when He says, “Test me in this.”  This is the only time in the Bible when God tells us to test Him.  He does so because the real issue is not money, but trust. 

God is saying, “I dare you!  Test me in this way to see if I really exist or not.”  He could have simply told us to give 10% because He demands it and that’s that.  But He wanted us to get to know Him in a much deeper way.  Is God alive?  Is He real?  Will He keep His promises?  One of the best ways to find out is to start tithing.

3. Reward. 

God promises a reward to His people when they put Him first with their finances.  Look at the last part of verse 10: “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”  God says that He will open wide the river of heaven and will blow us away with His blessings. 

Some people wonder if tithing is for today.  Let me take a shot at an answer to this question.

  • While we are no longer under the Law, tithing is a good benchmark for believers.  In other words, it’s a good place to start, sort of like a “minimum guide” for giving. 
  • It’s easy to tithe and yet miss out on what’s really important.  Jesus took the Pharisees to task not because they didn’t tithe, but because they had become so legalistic that they no longer cared about their love for God or for their neighbor.  Luke 11:42: “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God.”  God looks at the heart, not the hand.  He focuses on the giver, not the gift because the attitude is more important than the amount.
  • The practice of tithing is a good reminder of who’s in charge of my life.  When I give at least 10%, it’s a way to be reminded that God owns everything that I have.  Question.  If you make $400/week, how much of it belongs to God?  $40, right?  No, $400 belongs to Him.  God wants what your money represents—you.  When giving to God, we’re just taking our hands off what belongs to Him in the first place.  My use of money shows what I think of Him because my giving is a thermometer of my love.  Joe Stowell writes, “It’s not so much what you have but, rather, what has you that makes all the difference.” 

Tim Challies wrote a blog post recently called, “4 Questions to Ask Your Money” that I thought was real helpful.

  1. In spending this money, am I acting as if I own it, or am I acting as the Lord’s trustee?
  2. What Scripture passages require me to spend this money in this way?
  3. Can I offer up this purchase as a sacrifice to the Lord?
  4. Will God reward me for this expenditure at the resurrection of the just?
When we grovel about giving or withhold what is His, we are robbing God of His right to use us to propel His purposes in the world. 

When we grovel about giving or withhold what is His, we are robbing God of His right to use us to propel His purposes in the world.  I came across a title to a book that really captures it: The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose.

A story is told of a missionary who heard a knock on the front door of his hut.  When he opened the door, he saw a young boy who was holding a large fish in his hands. The boy looked up at the man and said, “You taught us what tithing is, so here…I’ve brought you my tithe.”  As the missionary took the fish, he asked the young man where the other nine fish were.  The boy flashed a radiant smile and said, “Oh, they’re still in the river.  I’m going back to catch them now.”  He caught the importance of first fruits…and first fish, didn’t he?

Giving in the New Testament

In general, the New Testament heightens, rather than lessens the teachings of the Old Testament.  We’ll look at just one verse in 1 Corinthians 16:2: “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper…”

  • Giving should be punctual.  The Bible says that believers are to give on a regular basis: “On the first day of the week.”
  • Giving should be personal.  Giving is something that is inherently individualistic.  It’s between you and God what you give.  At the same time, the Bible makes it clear that every believer is to give: “each one of you.”  Giving is not just a suggestion.  God expects each of us to be givers.
  • Giving should be proportional.  We are to give according to how God has blessed us.  The believer is to set aside “as he may prosper…”  Proportional giving means that the more God blesses us, the more we’re able to give, which may involve more than just giving 10%.  According to Malachi, the more you give, the more you are blessed.  1 Corinthians teaches that the more you’re blessed, the more you can give.  Someone put it this way: “Give according to your income, lest God make your income according to your giving.” The emphasis is on liberality, not limitation.

I don’t know about you, but I want to give to the Lord because of how much He has given to me. Can I encourage you to prepare what you’re going to give before you gather in one of our weekend services?  Beth and I write our tithe check every Monday morning and we set it out so we can see it during the week.  It reminds us that we have is not really ours.  When the offering time comes during the services we’re eager to put it in.  Here are some different ways you can give at Edgewood:

  • Through a check in the offering.
  • Through cash.
  • Stock or bonds.
  • Through your will.
  • We also have offering envelopes bundled together (so you can have a year’s supply) on the counter outside the auditorium doors.  There are also envelopes in the pew racks so you can designate where you want your offering to go.
  • You can mail your offering to the church office.
  • You can use our online giving feature at  One reason we moved in this direction is to provide the millennial generation with a way to give.  Several months ago, when I spoke to the Ignite Singles Class, I asked the 30 or so members of the class how many had a checkbook.  Any guesses?  Only one.  Being able to give online should make it easier for this generation to discover the joy of giving.
  • Participate in various “over and above” giving opportunities.  We just concluded our Christmas missions offering and over $9,000 came in!  The next opportunity is the Baby Bottle Project for Pregnancy Resources that will launch next weekend

I’m excited for the future of Edgewood because as we give we support all of our serving ministries, over 90 missionaries and mission organizations, the staff (including a new worship pastor and millennial pastor) and our need for additional building space to ensure that we live out our vision to gather, grow, give and go.

So that’s the giving part of our 4Gs.  Let me mention briefly the going part.  I’m going to spend less time on this because we’ve had a lot of preaching on this topic and so many of you are already living on mission!

Going with the Gospel

In verse 47, we see how the early church was energized to be involved in evangelism: “…enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  I have three quick thoughts here.

  • When we gather, grow, give and go; God goes to work and gets all the glory.
  • How people respond to the gospel is God’s responsibility.  Remember this truth: The Lord is the one who saves people.  It’s God who brings people to Himself.  
  • How I reflect God is my responsibility.  I’m struck by the fact that my responsibility is to become completely committed and totally sold-out to Christ.  These Christians enjoyed the “favor” of all the people.  That reminds me of what was said about Jesus in Luke 2:52: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and men.”  Jesus was attractive to people!  They wanted to be around Him.  

That leads to a question: “Do lost people like to be around me?  Do I attract people because I’m gracious or do I repel them because I’m judgmental?”   I’m convinced of this: As we live out our 4Gs God will bring people to Himself.  The order here is significant.  The people enjoyed favor and then the Lord brought people to faith.  The linkage here is love.  If people see that you love them they will want to learn more about the God who loves them.

We could say it like this.

  • They witnessed well – “…having favor with all the people…”
  • They watched God do His work – “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

Next Steps

Here are some action steps to put our giving and going into practice.

1. Take the tithing trust test. 

Since God dares us to trust Him in our tithing, I wonder how many of you who are not tithing are up to the challenge of giving 10% of your income to the Lord for the next 90 days and see what happens?  You could pray something like this, “Lord you tell me to test you in this way so I’m going to step out in faith and trust you by giving 10% between now and Easter.”  

If you’re struggling to give because of debt or because you think your budget doesn’t allow it, can I encourage you to sign up for Financial Peace University?  It will be held on Wednesday nights, beginning January 28th.

2. Sign up to serve. 

Stop by the ministry fair in the lobby and find a way to serve in 2015.  You and I have been saved to serve so find your spot and start serving.

3. Go with the gospel to your neighbors and others you meet. 

Here’s a three-pronged approach that’s easy to remember.

  • Prayer.  Pray for your neighbors, family members, co-workers, or classmates by name.  Ask God to give you an opportunity to have a gospel conversation at least once a day.
  • Care.  Look for a practical way to demonstrate that you care.  Shovel your neighbor’s driveway.  Follow-up when you see a need.  Work at enjoying the “favor” of people.
  • Share.  I was challenged this week by something David Platt wrote: “Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell.”  Look for natural opportunities to tell your story and His story.  When you’re out to eat, ask your waitress how you can pray for her.  Keep gospel pamphlets in your wallet or purse.  We have free copies of Soul Satisfaction on the Resource Table with our service times and contact information printed on the back.

Four years ago Christianity Today asked Billy Graham this question: “What are the most important issues facing evangelicals today?”  Here’s part of his answer: “Will we really reach our world for Christ?  Or will we turn increasingly inward, caught up in our own internal affairs or controversies, simply becoming more and more comfortable with the status quo?  Will we become inner-directed or outer-directed?  The central issues of our time aren’t economic or political or social, important as these are.  The central issues of our time are moral and spiritual in nature, and our calling is to declare Christ’s forgiveness and hope and transforming power to a world that does not know him or follow him.  May we never forget this.”

Let’s buck the trend of only throwing a buck in the plate.  Let’s give God our all…because He deserves it.  Let’s do our part by gathering, growing, giving and going because the depth of our devotion will determine our impact.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?