“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Friday, December 29, 2006

Cheerful Giver Part II

STEWARDSHIP – OLD TESTAMENT-STYLE

In the Old Testament, we find that Abraham was tithing before the Law required him to do so. In Genesis 14, Abraham tithes Melchizedek – why? Was it because he was forced to? No, it was out of gratitude to God. Then we find Jacob, as he flees from his angry brother, having a vision in Beit-El [Genesis 28], and making a vow that everything the Lord gives to him, he will give back a tenth. Again, this is before the requirements found in the Law! These men understood that everything is the Lord’s and by their tithe they were recognizing God's sovereignty. Could you see Abraham saying – “Should I give out of my gross or my net?”

In Deuteronomy 14 we find the Israelites commanded to bring their tithe to the place where God chooses to make His name dwell, (Jerusalem), and they are to eat the tithe of their grain in the presence of the Lord – learning to fear Him. And if they lived too far away, they were to convert their tithe into money and bring it to Jerusalem and then buy whatever they desire and eat it before the Lord and rejoice!

Some may be thinking – “Now, that is more like it, buy what I want and enjoy it, why give to the Church?” If you feel this way, you have missed the point of Deuteronomy 14 – they did this in order that they might be reminded of their total dependence upon the Lord, and in this knowledge of His goodness, they celebrated the tithe with joy and thanksgiving.

Throughout the Law we also find that the tithe was used to support the Priesthood and the upkeep of the Temple, AND to support the downtrodden, poor, orphans and widows. These are the works of ministry! We are not giving our money because God is cash-strapped; He does not need our money -- we are giving to MINISTRIES in order to glorify our God for what HE HAS DONE!

STEWARDSHIP – NEW TESTAMENT-STYLE

There are many who say that tithing is not a New Testament command; that we are not under law, but under grace. They are right – we are under grace, but it is a sad fact that many are so poorly versed in God’s Holy Word that they do not know the fact that under grace, we who could not fulfill the Law, now have it written on our heart. Therefore, tithing as a burden imposed upon the people of God as an act of works is gone, but now, with the Law written on our hearts, we now give out of joy to our God! Remember Romans 12 – we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, which is reasonable service compared to the great gift of our Lord and Savior!

The early church sold what they had and gave to all who had need, this is a little more than the 10% -- as a matter of fact, in many instances in the New Testament, there is no discussion of a tithe, rather there is the example of giving away what you have.

Jesus tells the Pharisees in His great woe to them [Matthew 23], that they tithe mint, cumin and dill, but have neglected the weightier matters of the law. In this passage, He does not say – “No need to tithe”, rather He says, these things you ought to have done, WITHOUT neglecting the other things. For the Pharisees tithing had become a mark of their ‘spirituality'; you see it again in the parable of the Tax Collector and Pharisee who went down to the Temple to pray [Luke 18]. The Pharisee is bragging about his tithing – but is not justified by it! We, who are Christ’s, should know this – we are not justified by our acts, but by faith alone, in Christ alone, through grace alone.

Giving for the New Testament believer is not about fulfilling the law in order to be justified, rather for us, as it was for Abraham, Jacob, David and all of the saints of the Old Testament, it is about recognizing the sovereignty of God over ALL of our resources, and out of gratitude to Him for what He HAS ALREADY DONE, we give to the work in His kingdom!

So many miss that important point – giving in the context of the New Testament is not with an eye to getting something in return, nor is it to do something to chalk up points on our holiness scale, it is because of the continuing grace of God working in our lives, made possible by the finished work of Christ on the Cross!

One should never give out of a compulsion that is man-centered, but only out of a spirit that is God-centered. 2nd Corinthians 9:6 is one of the most abused passages regarding giving – televangelists will tell you that you are to give to get, and they will tell you that it is verified in 2nd Corinthians. This is obviously one of those proof-texts that people love to extract from its setting and use as a tool to manipulate the base attitude of greed in the heart of man. Yet, when put in its context, this passage says that we give out of a cheerful heart, through the grace of God, not under compulsion; and ultimately for the glory of God, NOT to increase our coffers. We will have benefits, absolutely, but they are benefits in line with the Kingdom of God. That does not mean that one might not be blessed financially, but if you are giving for that reason, you may well be sorely disappointed.

Our true treasure is found in Christ, and God has ALREADY blessed us beyond our understanding, on a hill called Calvary, 2000 years ago. It is the finished work of Christ that is the ground of all our blessings, NOT THINGS. As Paul says in 1st Corinthians 2:9 -- "...no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"…

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