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The Gospel of Tithing

 

Malachi 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test 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 a blessing until it overflows.

 

Introduction:

This morning as we come to offer our pledges for the upcoming church year, I want us to take an important look at the Biblical notion of tithing.

 

Now for those of you who have been at All Saints for a while, I hope that everything in our study will be familiar to you. For you this study is meant to be a renewal and a refocusing.

 

For those of you who are new to All Saints, I hope that you will come to see tithing in a whole new light. That is, I hope you will come to see tithing as a proclamation of the Gospel and as a demonstration of God’s amazing goodness.

 

Now that said, let me add that I cannot think of a better setting in which to undertake our study of tithing than the one we are sitting in right now. Think about it: God has richly blessed us with our own church facility.

 

Importance: this context of God’s lavish blessing, love and provision (together with fact that God always gives first and most) is the very context/setting in which tithing is to be understood.

 

So let’s begin

This morning I want us to ask two basic questions about tithing:

         ·      First, I want to ask: What is Tithing

         ·      Second I want to ask: Why does God call us to tithe

 

 

 

I. What is Tithing

A] Simply put tithing is God’s command that every believer (rich or poor, stressed out or on easy street) is to bring 10% of their total income to God’s House Fn#1.

Deuteronomy 14:22 "You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.

Notice the result: the question of whether God is calling me to tithe is not something I need to agonies over in prayer. Instead, tithing is commanded in Scripture and therefore is already decided in heaven.

Psalm 119:89 Forever, O LORD, Thy word is settled in heaven.

 

Bottom line: tithing is God’s command that you bring 10% of your income into God’s house for the day in and day out running of God’s house. However, please note: bringing 10% to God’s house is merely the what of tithing. If we listen to Scripture, it will also tell us the why of tithing. Why does God call us to tithe?

 

II. Why did God Institute Tithing (why does God call us to tithe)

A] First, Tithing locates us within Creation. That is, tithing reflects the very essence of life- In other words, tithing is not some arbitrary law nor is it merely a part of the Old Testament system and therefore of no concern to God’s people today Fn#2. Rather, the principles behind tithing are woven into the very fabric of life and creation as God created them Fn#3. Notice then:

1.    Tithing reminds us that God is the provider of all we have. That is, tithing reminds us that all we have is from God

1 Chronicles 29:14 "But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from Thee, and from Thy hand we have given Thee.

2.   Tithing reminds us that God is the ruler of all life and creation. Therefore, everything we have is not only from God, but everything we have is also for God. That is, everything we have and do is to serve God, according to His will Fn#3

Psalm 24:1 The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.

3.    Tithing reminds us that God is Lord and therefore God is to be honored with the first and the best of what we have.

Exodus 23:19 "You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God. Fn#4

 

Bottom line: tithing underscores the essential nature of existence. It reminds man of both the source and the first obligation of all life (and then it prompts us to act on it, with the very sustenance of life).

 

B] Second, tithing locates us within recreation. That is, tithing reflects the very dynamics of the Gospel and the new life that God has provided. Notice then the same dynamics that define the very heart/essence of the Gospel are reflected and reinforced by the dynamics of tithing. How?

1.    First, the message of Scripture is that God goes first. That is, God always takes the initiative with His people (we are saved by grace). Notice then with tithing we tithe the blessings that God has already put in our hands

1 Chronicles 29:14 For all things come from Thee, and from Thy hand we have given Thee.

Importance: God does not call us to tithe what we hope to one day have or in hopes that God will provide in the future. Rather, we tithe the blessings that God has already given us. Tithing then is risk free giving FN#5.

2.    Second, by going first, God’s grace always equips/enables us to actively participate in the things of God (the grace that saves us is a grace that really changes us). Notice then with tithing, God’s provision equips/enables us to actively bless what God is blessing.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves received from God.

 

Bottom line: when we tithe we are participating in the very rhythms that define the Gospel. As such, tithing renews and reinforces our focus

 

C] Third, tithing locates us within our relationship with God. That is, tithing reflects the very heart of God towards us

Deuteronomy 12:6 "And you shall bring to the LORD’s house your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes 7 "And you and your households shall eat there before the LORD your God,

Notice at once: the original setting of the tithe was a family meal eaten before God. Importance: the setting of a family meal underscores the purpose of tithing. Simply put, tithing is for you not God.

Psalm 50:12 "If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all it contains.

In other words, you are the beneficiary of tithing not God. Notice then the picture that verses 6-7 provide: God is the landowner. He provides the vineyard, the seed, and the tools for the workers. Then at the harvest, He puts the 90% of the take in your hands to administer faithfully. He then takes the 10% that He requires you to bring to His house and He throws a lavish feast for you and His workers (God takes your tithe and invests in your spiritual nurture).

 

Bottom line: when I tithe, I am participating in the essential nature of creation, the fundamental rhythms of the Gospel, and the heart of God’s love. As such, tithing is never merely a matter of finance. Instead, tithing is always an act of worship, thanksgiving, and renewal.

 

 

Footnotes:

1] Notice then there is a vital difference between tithes, and offerings, and alms.

  • Tithing is the 10% brought into God’s house to support its daily operation

Leviticus 27:30 'Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD's; it is holy to the LORD.

  • Offerings are any additional gifts you give to support the ministry and work of God’s people

Deuteronomy 12:6 "And you shall bring to the LORD’s house your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings

  • Alms are offerings that God calls you to give to assist the needs of others

Deuteronomy 15:11 "For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.'

 

Importance: tithing is not where giving ends (it is not the ceiling of giving). Rather, tithing is where God intends giving to begin.

 

2] Note: there is a view held by some that tithing is a part of the Old Testament system and therefore is abolished under the New Testament system. There are four problems with this view:

a)     The notion of tithing is a creational mandate. It is woven into the very fabric of creation. As such, it predates the Mosaic Law

Genesis 4:4 And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; (Able brings the first and the best- c.f. Exodus 23:19)

Genesis 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 And Melchizedek blessed Abram and said, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And Abram gave him a tenth of all. (cf Nehemiah 10:37)

b)    Jesus assumes the tithe. Nowhere does He negate it.

Matthew 23:23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, but have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

c)     The New Testament does not abolish the Old but fulfills it. As such, when an Old Testament form is altered, we have a new form in its place that is the fullness of what the Old promised and prepared for (thus the promise given in Circumcision is fulfilled by Baptism. The promise given in the many sacrifices points to and is fulfilled by the onetime sacrifice of Christ). In other words, the movement from Old to New is not a movement from something to nothing. Rather, it is a movement from something to the fullness of that something. The point is that if tithing is altered by the New Testament we ought to be able to point to the “something” that replaces/fulfills it.

d)     Regardless of all that has been said above, one thing is certain: if tithing is indeed abolished by the New, it is not done in order to condone or facilitate man’s selfishness, worldliness, or greed. If the tithe was abolished it was to free man to give more than 10% not less.

Acts 2:44 And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

Bottom line: as a theologian, I must reject the notion that the Tithe was abolished in the New Testament on the basis of #1-3. However, as a minister of a real church with real needs, I will be more than happy to accept your rendition of argument #4, along with your check for 40% of your income.

 

3] Importance: notice at once that tithing is not an arbitrary command nor is it some later development in Scripture. Rather, the principles behind tithing are woven into the very fabric of creation. Notice then:

·       The Creation account begins and ends with God (“In the beginning God Created” and “The seventh day is Holy unto the Lord”). In other words, from beginning to end everything is from God.

·       Not only that, Scripture reminds man that his work is based on and is to reflect God’s work and purpose.

Exodus 20:9 "Six days you shall labor and do all your work,10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work 11 "Because in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth and rested on the seventh day

We are to work six days because God worked six days. However, please note, it is not just when we work that is to reflect God.  Rather, by modeling our work week on that of God, we are reminded that our work is to reflect the purpose and objective of God’s work. In other words, everything we do is for God

·       Notice the result: All we do is from God and for God and therefore it is to be offered to God. As such, our tithe (the portion of our labor that we bring before God) is indicative of the whole. In other words, we offer to God the fruit of our labor because throughout the week we have been serving God, in God’s vineyard, seeking His purpose. The tithe is indicative of the whole (notice we see this same principle at work in the establishment of the Levites as priests- Num 3:12-13)

 

 

4] Exodus 23:19 "You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God

Compare the attitude in Exodus 23:19 with the attitude seen in Malachi 1:6-14.

 

 

5] Notice: God does not give you a part of what is needed and then tell you to somehow scrounge up the rest on your own. Instead, if God has provided you $1000, He has already included the tithe of $100 in it. In other words, God has already given to you what He requires from you.

2 Corinthians 9:8 God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;

 

 

 

 

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