Last week I started a new series titled, “God’s Guide for Giving,” and I examined “Giving in the Old Testament.” Today I would like to examine “Giving in the New Testament.”
There are two reasons why I want to spend two Sundays preaching on “God’s Guide for Giving.”
First, I want to look at “God’s Guide for Giving” because the Session has agreed that we want everyone in our church family to make a pledge to the 2009 General Fund. These pledges will help our Budget Committee as they plan the General Fund budget for 2009. I will say more about that later in this sermon.
And second, I want to look at “God’s Guide for Giving” because the Bible has so much to say about giving. God has revealed what he wants us to know about giving. Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:27, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” Similarly, it is my duty and delight to declare to you the whole counsel of God regarding giving. Not to do so would be to rob you of the blessing that God intends for you as you follow God’s guide for giving.
But how are we to give our money?
Let me briefly review what I said last week. By the way, you can access last week’s message from our website.
I. Giving Before Moses
First, we looked at giving before Moses.
In the Bible giving falls into two categories: voluntary giving and required giving.
A. Voluntary Giving Before Moses
We began by looking at voluntary giving before Moses.
The first mention of giving in the Bible is in Genesis 4. The first offering given to God was by Cain and Abel. It is important to note that it was a voluntary offering. There was no command given to Cain and Abel to give to God. It was a voluntary offering. We don’t know how much they gave. We don’t the percentage of their gift. All we know is that they gave voluntarily, and that there was no requirement, no amount, no stipulation, and no frequency placed upon them to give. It was all completely voluntary.
The next example of giving is Noah. After the worldwide flood subsided, Noah left the ark and immediately offered a sacrifice to God. There was no command and no percentage required.
In Genesis 12 Abram was called by God to become the father of a new nation in a new land. After Abram arrived in Canaan, he built an altar to the Lord (Genesis 12:7). Again, this was a voluntary offering by Abram. There was no command, no requirement to give an offering to the Lord. It was simply the spontaneous response of a heart devoted to God.
The first mention of tithe (or “tenth”) is in Genesis 14:20. The word for tithe in Hebrew (maaser) means “a tenth part,” and in Greek (dekate) it simply means “a tenth.” It is not a religious word; it is a mathematical word. It is simply a percentage—10%.
Abram had just returned from fighting Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. Melchizedek met Abram and blessed him. When Abram heard what Melchizedek said, he wanted to express thanks to God for his victory over Chedorlaomer. So Genesis 14:20b says, “And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”