Malachi 3:6-12; Genesis 14:18-20; Matthew 23:23-24
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (NIV)
This has been my key verse for this series on giving. The first principle I shared as I began this series was stewardship. Do you remember what stewardship means?
God owns it and I am only His manager of all that I am, all that I possess. It all belongs to Him. I am to use it for His honor and glory.
Then I spoke about first fruits. Give Him the first of your income. When the crop comes in, give to God first and trust that the rest will be enough. As someone pointed out to me, this also means we are to give the best to God, not the left overs.
I also shared with you why you should give to your local congregation. We are a family, a team to carry out God’s plan in our community. If you are part of the family, the team, you will want to give to help the team accomplish the purpose God has given us. If you are part of the team you will get involved in carrying out the mission.
As you pray about how much to give, as you decide in your heart how much God wants you to give, you must consider the tithe. The first Biblical record of a tithe being given was reported back in Genesis.
Genesis 14:18-20 Abraham and Melchizedek
Abraham went to war because his nephew, Lot, had been taken captive. Lot and Abram, as he was called at the time, had parted company when their numbers and herds became too large to manage. Lot went to the Jordan valley near what is now known as the Dead Sea. Sodom and Gomorrah were cities close to the territory Lot had chosen for himself. He chose this area because it was well watered.
Abram stayed in the less well watered hill country between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.
Sodom and the surrounding city states rebelled against another king who was ruling over them at the time. They lost the battle and fled. The ruling king took goods and captives. Among them was Lot and his family. When Abram heard, he went and defeated Lot’s captors. We pick up reading after this battle and after Lot had been freed.
Genesis 14:18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem (thought to be the city-state that eventually became Jerusalem) brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
"Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand."
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (NIV)
We learn from the book of Hebrews that the name Melchizedek means King of Righteousness. He was the king of Salem which means peace. Here is a priest to God Most High who was also the king of Salem and his name means King of Righteousness.
It is clear that this Priest-King foreshadowed the coming of our Lord, Jesus, the Christ.
Abraham gave this priest-king a tithe, that is, a tenth, of the spoils of war.
Abraham gave what he had decided in his heart to give. God led him to give a tithe. Before the law was given, the father of faith decided in his heart to give a tenth of his income.
The principle of the tithe, the giving of one tenth, came before the law. God owns everything. He asks us to give Him a tenth and allows us to keep the rest. The rest still belongs to Him, and we are His servants in its use.
As you decide in your heart to give, I would encourage you to consider the tithe as a place to start.
One passage that is frequently used when teaching about the tithe is found in the last book of the Old Testament.
6 "I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the Lord Almighty.
"But you ask, 'How are we to return?'
8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
"But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'
"In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse — the whole nation of you — because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "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. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the Lord Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the Lord Almighty. (NIV)
I cannot say that everything belongs to God and then say that the tithe belongs to God, can I? Wait, maybe I can. In a sense the tithe belongs to God in a way that the rest does not. God expects us to tithe. Part of what it means to be the steward of all the things God has placed in our care is to understand that He expects us to give back a portion of the total.
As stewards we are accountable to God for how we use all our possessions, our time, our very selves. We are also accountable to give as He directs us to give. The tithe was to be given to support the infrastructure of the house of God. We are also to be generous in giving to those in need around us. God seems to have had a special place in His heart for widows and orphans. People who had no means of support. God’s people are to work at giving to those in need.
As with the first fruits principle, where we were guided to honor God by giving the first fruits of our crops, the first of our income, the principle of the tithe comes with a promise. Let me remind you of the promise concerning first fruits.
Prov 3:9 Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (NIV)
Concerning the tithe, God says “Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing that you will not be able to contain.”
This is the only scripture I know of where God invites us to test Him. He promises to pour out a blessing we will not be able to contain.
As I said in the message about the first fruits, I would caution you that you not give a tithe just to get the blessing. We give the tithe because we know in our hearts that God is leading us to give a tithe. He is LORD and he loves us. We are to give, first of all, to honor God. We are to give because we love Him.
We are to enjoy the blessings that come with the tithe, but this is not to be our primary motive for giving.
The apostle Paul tells us to give as we have decided in our hearts to give. We do not decide on our own. We study His Word and allow His Holy Spirit to help us come to the decision that He leads us to make.
Our property is not ours. It all belongs to God and we must pray about what we are to give. We must decide with our Lord’s help what to give, where to give, and why we give.
We are disciples of the Lord, Jesus Christ. We follow Him. He said, Matt 23:23-24
23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. (NIV)
The problem with the Pharisees was they followed the law, but they did not follow the Lord. Jesus commended them for tithing, even down to the spices they used. He would have us tithe, but we must be sure we are following Him, not just following the rules.
He will lead us to love Him and to love other people. If we are walking in the Spirit we will give generously. We will give to support our local church, and we will give to help the less fortunate. We will give because we love Him and we love people.
As you decide in your heart what to give, consider the principles of stewardship, first fruits, and tithing. Allow God’s Word and His Spirit to lead you as you make the decision to give. He loves us and He is our Lord.