Small Group Curriculum

Rethinking Your Giving

04.06.14 | Sermon Series: Spent


COACHING VIDEO


SMALL GROUP CURRICULUM  (Download PDF)

PREPARATION

Spend the week studying Proverbs 3:9-10; Malachi 3:6-12; and 1 John 3:16-18. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.

Determine which discussion points and questions will work best with your group.

Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their receptivity to God’s Word.

Focus on the Main Point. We have been looking at how the Bible challenges us to rethink the way we view our money. Today we will look at how we can honor the Lord with our wealth by tithing and giving to people in need.

INTRODUCTION

As your group time begins, use this section to help get the conversation going.

What is the first thing you usually do on payday?

Has that always been the first thing? How has your response to getting paid for work changed over the years?

Why is that response an accurate measure of our priorities in life?

If you want to know what is truly important to a person, just follow the money. Many times our expenditures are more honest than our words when it comes to what we really love and value. Scripture teaches us that if we truly love God, then our money will reflect that love. That’s why it is so important for us to consistently give the tithe as an offering of worship and make time to serve the local church.

LEARN

Unpack the biblical text to discover what Scripture says or means about a particular topic.

HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ PROVERBS 3:9-10.

This proverb teaches that the only way to win with our money is to honor the Lord with our possessions and wealth. God instructed Moses to tell the Hebrew people to give the very best of the firstfruits from their land as an offering to the Lord (see Ex. 23:19; Deut. 26:2). Giving the firstfruits was a public acknowledgment that all things come from God and belonged to Him.

What would it mean for a believer to honor the Lord with the “firstfruits” of the harvest today?

What’s the difference between giving to the Lord from the first portion of your income rather than the last?

The word “firstfruits” emphasizes that we are to first give our best to God from all we produce. This is close to the subject of tithing. The only way to tithe is to set apart the tenth of our income first. Many people consider tithing often only after the other needs are met. Giving the tithe requires that this amount be set apart at the first. Too many would-be worshipers give God the leftovers, not the best.

Besides giving money to the church, what are some ways we can honor the Lord with our wealth?

What is the cause and effect relationship in the promise in verse 10? What does the promise mean?

What doesn’t it mean? How could these verses be misused and misinterpreted?

Proverbs 3:9-10 presents an if-then relationship; not a magical formula. Certainly those who honor God in the way they use their possessions and money will discover how to meet their needs. However, even ones with perfect integrity (see Job 1:12-22) may experience personal or financial loss.

HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ MALACHI 3:6-12.

In what ways is failing to tithe robbing God?

Why did God point out failure to practice the discipline of tithing as evidence that His people had turned away from Him?

When we tithe, why might it be important to give the first ten percent of our income?

The Hebrew word translated tithe literally means a tenth. The practice of tithing demonstrates several important aspects of God’s people’s relationship with Him. (1) It is an act of obedience, an expression of devotion to the Lord. (2) It acknowledges that God owns everything; we are merely stewards of what He has entrusted to us. (3) It expresses faith in God as Provider, trusting Him to enable us to meet our needs with what remains. The Lord did not command tithing to harm or hinder His people. He loves us and always wants the best for us. To fail to tithe is to miss His blessing of the joy of giving. He may use varied means to discipline us and teach us the importance of acknowledging through tithing that He owns all we have.

What is the implication of His demand for the “whole tenth” (v. 10)?

Where was the tithe to be given (v. 10)? Why?

Why do these standards still hold true for Christians today?

How is the tithe used today?

What can Christians expect as a result of giving the whole tithe to the church today?

Tithing is neither legalistic nor pre-gospel, pre-Christian, or sub-Christian. Rather, giving the whole tithe is a measure of a believer’s obedience to God, faith in God, and love for God. Jesus gave His all for us, and He asks us to give all we have and are to Him. The purpose of tithing is twofold. Tithing does not guarantee us financial blessing from the Lord but it does guarantee us spiritual blessing (v. 11). Today, the tithes and offerings of God’s people provide support for the churches’ ministers and its ministries. Another purpose of tithing is to bring the giver into a closer relationship with God.

HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ 1 JOHN 3:16-18.

How did Jesus demonstrate generosity toward us through His death on the cross?

What’s the relationship between love and generosity?

What does it mean for us to “lay down our lives for our brothers”?

How is doing so evidence of the work of Christ in our lives?

Following Jesus’ example, we’re to love with actions, not just words. One of the ways we can know our salvation is genuine is by the love we demonstrate toward others. Specifically, this passage in 1 John reminds us we’re to use our resources to help those in need.

Who are “our brothers” in this passage?

What is your initial reaction to verse 17?

We can’t just talk about goodness and generosity. Like Jesus, we have to practice those qualities. Christian love isn’t exhibited in a loud profession about being “good” people, but is quietly demonstrated by helping a brother in need. Because the church is the body of Christ, called to be His hands and feet on earth, generosity should fuel our ministry.

LIVE

Help your group identify how the truths from the Scripture passage apply directly to their lives. Create some talking points for the group by looking at the practical implications of the lesson. Get group members to talk about the real-life implications of the passage. Look at what can be applied specifically to Pinelake.

It has been said that our check books reveal our values and priorities. Do you think that is true? Why or why not?

How is setting aside the tithe a good place to place to start when seeking to honor God with our money?

Who around you has a physical need you could do something about? What specifically are you willing to sacrifice to meet that need?

 LEAD

Help your group identify how the truths from the Scripture passage impact the way you lead at Pinelake and interact with people outside of Pinelake.

What attitudes or circumstances prevent you from living generously? What can you do about them?

How do God’s promises in Malachi counter any fear or apprehension you might have about tithing?

How are you going to ensure that tithing is non-negotiable for you and your family?

PRAY

Thank God for the privilege of worshipping Him through giving. Pray that the tithe would become the minimum standard for everyone at Pinelake. Thank God for His promise to bless us when we are joyfully generous with others.

FOLLOW UP

Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following information:

Questions to consider as they continue to reflect on what they learned this week:

    • Why is money such a critical issue to God? How does the way we spend our money reveal the condition of our hearts?
    • What is one way we might encourage financial responsibility as leaders of ministry and of our homes?

The challenge to memorize Malachi 3:10.


COMMENTARY

PROVERBS 3:9-10

3:9. The word honor means to make important. The verb thus emphasizes how we must make a conscious choice to show the importance of our relationship with God by investing our possessions in ways that honor Him. Whenever we buy gifts for others, we give careful thought to what will please them. We should likewise give careful thought to what we give the Lord.

The word wealth can also be translated possessions or sufficiency, and describes the resources of those who have enough to live on. Indeed, with its subtle suggestion that we are wealthy when we have enough, the proverb challenges the world’s thinking that we always need just a little bit more.

The expression firstfruits of all your produce reminded farmers to recognize God’s blessing for each harvest. According to the law of Moses, the first produce from the field were brought to the house of the Lord (see Ex. 23:19; 34:26). These offerings helped to support the priests (see Num. 18:12; Deut. 18:4) and insure that their place of worship was dedicated to the Lord. Though the expression focuses on the agricultural imagery, it is broad enough to denote any kind of revenue that comes from the work of our hands. Honoring the Lord with the first of our income is the best way we can show our gratitude for His gracious provision.

3:10. In a very real sense, the promise that your barns will be filled with plenty was something those who gave generously had to take on faith. The expression your vats will be bursting also emphasize the generous provision God would supply as people faithfully brought Him their offerings. Much of Israel’s territory supports the growing of grapes, some of which the people made into new wine. Other summer crops such as olives, dates, figs, and pomegranates were also common. People were to dedicate a portion of each of these to God as He provided the harvest. He in turn promised to bless them for their faithfulness.

We show our priority in honoring the Lord when we gratefully and regularly set aside a portion of our income to support His kingdom work. We do not give because the Lord needs the money; God is quite able to accomplish all He wishes without our help. Rather, He commands us to give so that we may have the privilege of participating with Him in His work. Giving faithfully also helps us to assess if our priorities match God’s priorities. What does your checkbook ledger reveal about your priorities.

MALACHI 3:6-12

3:6. The Lord spoke through His prophet to tell the Israelites that they deserved total destruction. The word translated perished has the root meaning of end. Why had the end not come for them? Not because the Israelites had done anything to deserve God’s mercy. On the contrary, they deserved to be destroyed for their failure to love and follow the Lord. They had been spared because they were the descendants of Jacob, and God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bless all nations through their descendants.

3:7. The Lord consistently had been faithful to the people through whom He had chosen to send His Messiah into the world. Nevertheless they habitually had turned away from His statutes (laws) generation after generation—since the days of your fathers. God entreated the people to return to Him. If they would repent of their stubborn rebellion, He promised to return to them. The unchanging God of their fathers had not changed in His love for His people. They had turned away from Him. He invited them to come back to the receptive arms of the One who loved them and would forgive them.

3:8. The Lord pointed to a particular way the people should return to Him. They needed to stop robbing Him. “In what way do we rob You?” Indeed, how can a human being rob God? Beware of taking lightly the Lord’s answer. He declared the Israelites were robbing Him in the tenth.

3:9. Withholding tithes and offerings was not isolated to a few individuals but was characteristic of the whole nation. The people as a whole were suffering under a curse. In their case, those effects evidently were drought, crop failures, and famine (3:10-11) as God’s disciplinary punishment for their sins. The Lord did not command tithing to harm or hinder His people. He loves us and always wants the best for us.

3:10. The Lord instructed the people what to give, where to give, and why they should give. They were not merely to bring a nominal offering but to bring the whole tenth. Tithing is the biblical standard for believers’ giving. While believers may fall short of biblical standards, the biblical standards remain.

3:11. The Lord not only would ensure the growth of crops but also the harvest—I will rebuke the devourer for you, pests that would consume the crops before the harvest. In addition, the vine in the field will not be barren. No blight would ruin the harvest. The curse under which the people were living would be lifted and they would experience anew the blessings of God.

3:12. As God abundantly would meet the needs of the faithful Israelites, they would gain a reputation among all the nations as being fortunate. No longer would they be seen as a weak and pitiful remnant who had returned to huddle in their ruined and ravaged homeland. The entire world would see their nation as a delightful land. God’s promised blessings were not only for His people’s sake but also for the sake of other nations. He wants all peoples to know Him as the true Lord God Almighty.

1 JOHN 3:16-18

We can understand what love is by looking at Jesus’example. He laid down His life for us. We ought to be prepared to do the same for one another. While the necessity of laying down our lives for one another is rare, the necessity of helping meet one another’s needs is not. The true test of a Christian’s love is not his words (loving with words or tongue) but his willingness to sacrifice for the sake of his brother ... to love with actions and in truth.