MARK 10:28
How Much Is Enough?
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Mark 10:28 (Holman)   Peter began to tell Him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”

We can almost feel the exasperation in Peter’s voice.  He’s almost pleading, “Jesus, we’ve given up everything.  Is this enough?”  All who truly love the Lord Jesus are often haunted by a nagging sense they should be giving Him more.

Christians want to please God in every detail of life.  Often our hardest chal?lenge in discerning His will about giving is to ascertain, “How much is enough?”

This is a reasonable question, deserving from any preacher a straightforward answer.  Let me approach the question with three observations and a parable.

Observation one: preaching is a high, holy calling, and a pastor must nev?er vulgarize or cheapen it.  Due to my high regard for preaching, I determined long ago, if I am going to preach about money, I will preach not primarily about a program, even if is as important as our Financially Free, but rather to change lives, to help peo?ple, to say things that will benefit them for a lifetime.  

Let me be clear on this.  I don’t want to be dishonest or hypocritical.  I do want you to give to Financially Free??.  At the same time I want you to know my heart’s deepest and strongest desire.  Being more a Pastor than a fundraiser, my first concern is your lifelong well-being.

Observation two: preaching must never be self-serving.  Pastors’ sala?ries ?are paid out of what people place in the offering plate.  Having a vested interest in the financial success of the churches we serve, Pastors are stereotyped as loving the offer?ing more than any other part of a worship service.  

Before preaching on money, a pastor must stay in prayer until emptied of selfish motives.  It is incumbent on us to make sure we preach on giving in or?der to raise money for God and His cause, of which our salary is but a small part.

I pray my motives are pure at this point.  My job is secure, as best I can tell.  I’m fairly confident my salary will be paid, whether or not I preach on giving.  I think my heart is right, and trust these sermons ?will address a cause higher than my own advance?ment.

Observation three: preaching must be Bible-based.  It’s okay to express personal opinions in preaching.  Applications and interpretations have to be made to the best of a preacher’s understanding.  

However, the authoritative part of preaching is that which comes obviously and directly from the Bible.  One Bible verse is critical in determining God’s will with regard to the amount we should give.  

The answer to “How much is enough?” hin?ges on our interpretation and understanding of Matthew 23:23, where our Mas?ter said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypo?crites!  You pay a tenth of mint and anise and cummin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faith.  These things should have been done without neglecting the others.”

People often say tithing, giving one-tenth of our income to God, was required in the Old Testament only, and is not taught in the New Testament.  When I hear this, I wonder, “What about Matthew 23:23?”

The “Old Testament only” argument applies to ceremony and ritual.  The New Testament book, Hebrews, teaches we no longer need priests or sacrifices.

The “Old Testament only” argument applies to Saturday worship.  Several New Testament texts tell us the early believers had begun worshiping on Sunday.

The “Old Testament only” argument applies to killing people for sex crimes.  The way Jesus handled the case of the woman taken in adultery settled this debate.

When we try to apply the “Old Testament only” argument to tithing, we choke on Matthew 23:23, one of the most helpful verses in the whole Bible on giving.  This text teaches us tithing is not the answer to the world’s problems, nor is it the most important part of Christian living.  

The scribes and Pharisees tithed, but were ungodly.  Tithers crucified our Lord.  Some of the meanest people I have ever known were tithers.  

One danger for those of us who tithe is to begin to see it as the most important aspect of our spiritual lives.  It can becomes an artificial benchmark, a standard by which we measure our spirituality.  

It is interesting to note that people who say a tithe is the minimum we should give often treat it also as the maximum.  They would never say this, but do practice it.  

For many believers, a tithe is the most they plan to contribute.  Giving thus becomes the only area in their Christian life with a lid on it.  We know we are to continue increas?ing and growing in every other area of Christian living, but in giving we often stagnate.

Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees to focus on matters more important than tithing.  He also clearly stated they should not leave the duty of tithing undone.  

We might be tempted to say we should not build a whole doctrine out of a casual remark Jesus made in passing.  Be careful.  Do not put your hand on the holy.  Every word proceeding from Jesus’ mouth is precious.  He should not have to state anything twice or thrice for us to heed Him.  Once ought to be sufficient.

Had Jesus casually said, “I love flowers,” every church building in Christendom would be filled with flowers.  Had He mentioned off the cuff, “I love trees,” every church building would sit in the middle of an orchard.  The same re?spect should be paid to His one remark about the duty of tithing.  It should not be left undone.

You’ve heard three observations.  Now hear a parable.  On day six of creation, angels were discussing how God would divide His resources among these new creatures known as human be?ings.  Since everything belongs to God, the question under consideration was, how much will He let people use on themselves, and how much will He want returned to Him for His own causes.  

One angel said, “God is kind.  He will want people to keep at least one-third for themselves.”  A second angel replied, “The Lord is more gen?erous than that.  I think He will want them to keep at least half.”  Michael, who works close with God, chimed in, “You don’t understand how much the Father loves these new creatures.  I think He will want them to keep at least two-thirds for themselves.”  “No way!” the other angels cried, “That’s unreasonable.”  

At this moment, Jesus walked by.  Gabriel asked, “Lord, settle this debate.  How much do you want people to keep for themselves?  We’re deadlocked.  One says one-third, one says one-half, Michael says two-thirds.  Who is right?”  “No one,” said the Lord, “You are all wrong.  I want them to keep ninety percent for themselves.”  

As He walked away, the angels sat in stunned silence.  After a few steps, the Lord Jesus turned toward the angels, and with a tear in His eyes, sadly said, “Most of my children will begrudge me the ten percent.”  With this, the angels began to cry.

We are often tempted to think of tithing ??as be?ing im?pressive.  This parable puts it in a new light.  It’s hard to brag when we see ourselves keeping so much for us.  “How much is enough?”  Probably more than we have ever given before, and maybe more than we ever dreamed of giving.