Summary: This sermon examines giving in the New Testament.
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.”
Now, it is important to note that Abram was not commanded to give a tithe. His tithe to Melchizedek was a voluntary gift.
The other mention of tithe (or “tenth”) in the book of Genesis has to do with Jacob. He made a vow to God saying that if God would be with him, he would give God full tenth of everything (Genesis 28:22). God did not command Jacob to give a tithe. Jacob decided voluntarily to give a tithe of all that God would give him.
Now, all the gifts given to God from Cain and Abel to Jacob were all voluntary gifts. No command was given to give a tithe. All the gifts given were voluntary gifts. The tithe, which was mentioned only twice, simply represented the giving of their all—as it did for ancient people in that day.
B. Required Giving Before Moses
Then we looked at required giving before Moses.
Required giving began with Joseph in Egypt. He told Pharaoh to take one-fifth of the produce of the land during the seven plentiful years (Genesis 41:34). This is the first time we find a national tax mentioned in the entire Bible. Notice the tax rate—20%!
This is the first example of required giving, at a rate of 20%.
So, what did we learn about giving before Moses? We learned that voluntary giving was directed toward God in an attitude of love and sacrifice, and that required giving was directed toward the government to take care of the needs of the people.