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Religion


God's Money and You Part 8: Testing God


By Pastor Philip Howle
web posted October 3, 2012

RELIGION – So we are moving along in our series on money. I pray your money is honoring God more than it was and you are experiencing the joy of using money the way that God intended. One question that I get pretty frequently is “How much should I give?” This question can take two forms: a sincere form that just wants to make sure they are giving enough and the other form that wants to make sure they are not giving too much.
   
First off let me reiterate as we talk about money, that God is not broke. Scripture declares “For every beast of the forest is mine,” he says. “I know all the birds of the hills and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.”  Psalm 50:10-12 God doesn’t need our money. What He’s truly after is our heart.  Psalm 50:14-15 continues: “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”  Giving is important because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:41) It is impossible to love God and not give. As Matthew 6:24 says that “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Now, if you hang out around churches you will hear mention of the term “tithe.” What is a tithe? Tithing has strong Old Testament foundations. The tithe was a requirement of the law in which all Israelites were to give 10 percent of everything they earned and grew to the Tabernacle/Temple (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5). In fact, the Old Testament Law required multiple tithes which would have pushed the total to around 23.3 percent, not the 10 percent which is generally considered the tithe amount today. The Old Testament tithe functioned as a method of taxation to provide for the needs of the priests and Levites in the sacrificial system.

The New Testament, however, does not command that Christians submit to a “legalistic” tithe system. The word “legalistic” meaning that by doing the act of tithing you are made right with God.  Paul states that believers should set aside a portion of their income in order to support the church (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Good news if you want to hold on to more of your cash right?
   
Not so quick. When you read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:17, Jesus says "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” What Jesus proceeds to do in the rest of the sermon is say “you have heard it said you should not kill, I say don’t hate your brother.” Then Jesus adds “You have heard it said you should not commit adultery, but I say don’t even lust in your heart.” See what Jesus is doing? He is taking simple external obedience and internalizing it. He is making the commands more intense. I will hopefully not murder someone today or commit adultery, but staying free from anger and lust is a much harder task.  So following this principal, the tithe of the Old Testament, while not reaffirmed explicitly, would follow the same principal as the above rules and become a matter of the heart and be intensified.

Since giving is a matter of the heart and since Jesus fulfilled the law, God’s people are to give as a grateful response to his love, not to fulfill a pre-determined percentage or quota.  That’s why the New Testament encourages giving without providing specific numbers, and reminds us that if we fail to give, we don’t harm God —we only harm ourselves (and our church, since we’re all part of the same body).  “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,” and “Whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2 Cor 9:6)

With that being said, as a little boy I was taught to tithe. I gave ten percent of my allowance (fifty cent a week I was throwing down in the plate!) and any money I worked for as well. My folks were serious about making sure I did this. I did not always enjoy it in high school and college when I was working and making decent money. During this time in my life I would probably not have been considered a “cheerful giver.”

But the discipline of being taught to tithe and having to budget to live off 90% of my income has had an enormous impact in my life. I never went into debt for anything (other than some school loans.) I had formed a good habit; it was just a part of how I lived my life. It is still to some extent, but instead of raising our standard of living in accordance to any raises or additional income we receive we use it to try and give more and more. I am not tooting my horn; I am just testifying that if you surrender all your money to God and begin to budget to give to God using the tithe as a standard or a guide you will be surprised at the reaping you receive. (2 Cor 9:6)

This reaping will not necessarily be monetary; you don’t give money to get more back from God. The reaping will come in the form of being granted contentment, finding yourself free from the temptations of covetousness and a whole array of other spiritual blessings. I do ask you to give regular, sacrificial, and joyful giving a try. God goes so far as to encourage you to test him in this matter. In Malachi 3:10 it is written “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”


Pastor Phillip



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