Summary: This sermon examines giving in the Old Testament.
I would like to spend the next two Sundays looking at “God’s Guide for Giving.” Today I would like to examine “Giving in the Old Testament.” Next Sunday I would like to examine “Giving in the New Testament.”
There are two reasons why I want to spend the next two Sundays preaching about “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 money and giving. We are constantly dealing with money. We pay bills. We write checks. We use credit cards and debit cards. In fact, most of us even have wallets that we carry around with us wherever we go so that we can pay for things. Money is an excellent barometer of our discipleship because the way we handle money is an indication of our Christian stewardship.
Many people don’t like preachers talking about money. They say, “Preacher, teach me how to have more love, or faith, or grace in my life. But, don’t teach me about money.”
But the Bible has a great deal to say about money. In fact, the Bible has more to say about money than most other subjects.
The reason I think people don’t like preachers talking about money is because money is so tangible. After all, it is not difficult for a preacher to know whether you are giving 2% or 20% of your income to the church. It is much harder for him to know whether you love someone with 2% or 20% or 100% love!
You see, in many ways, money is a much better barometer of our Christian discipleship than love or faith or grace.
For example, I can say that I love as God wants me to love, but it is hard to demonstrate that tangibly.
On the other hand, I can say that I give as God wants me to give, and it is easy to demonstrate that tangibly. I cannot hide my giving as easily as I can hide my loving.
But how are we to give our money?
We are constantly bombarded with appeals for money. Everybody is trying to get us to give money. Some prosperity preachers promise us a one hundred-fold return on our giving. Other TV preachers spend most of their time asking for money.
Some years ago, Dr. Johnston and I attended an evening worship service at a local church. We wanted to hear the preacher, who had an international reputation. After 30 minutes of singing and announcements, they got to the offering. One of the pastors started speaking before they took the offering. I expected a short exhortation to give my money, and then the ushers would come and take the offering. Well, the pre-offering talk lasted a full 45 minutes!
Dr. Johnston and I left as the offering was being taken. . . .
In this two-week series, I want to examine “God’s Guide for Giving.” Today, we will look at “Giving in the Old Testament.”
I. Giving Before Moses
First, let’s look at giving before Moses.
How did God’s people give money before the time of Moses? What was God’s guide for giving in the Old Testament?
In the Bible giving falls into two categories: voluntary giving and required giving.
A. Voluntary Giving Before Moses
Let’s begin by looking at voluntary giving before Moses.
One of the most important terms regarding giving is the tithe. It is important to understand what the tithe is and how it functions.
First, what is the meaning of tithe? 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 has only to do with a percentage—10%.
Historically, even outside the Bible, people often used “ten” as the basic number for counting systems. Even the modern metric system is based on the number ten, for example.
Since ten represented completeness, the giving of a tenth symbolized the giving of the whole, even in ancient, pagan cultures. In other words, by giving a tenth, people indicated that their gift was a symbol of the fact that they were giving their all.
Second, the tithe was not commanded. There is no requirement to tithe in the book of Genesis. Abraham was not told to give a tithe. Jacob was not told to give a tithe. No one was told to give a tithe. There was no commandment to anyone to tithe.