Summary: God not only required a tithe in the Old Testament, He challenged His people to respond to Him when He says, “Test me in this.” This is the only time in the Bible when God tells us to test Him.
Giving With Grace
That drama really captures the different attitudes that people have about giving. Some feel pressured or guilty, while others of us find a lot of joy when we give if we remember to bring our wallets! That reminds me of a man and his son who went to church together. On their way home, the father complained to his son about the service being too long. The little boy was quiet for a minute as he thought back to what his dad had put in the offering and said, “Daddy, I thought it was a pretty good service for a buck!”
As I’ve wrestled with the events that are transpiring in our country, I’ve once again asked the Lord to let me know if we should continue in our “Building for the Future” series or if we should focus on something else. I sense that it’s time for us to move forward. As we learned last week from Psalm 46, we can depend on God for His protection and presence because of His position as the supreme Commander of the armies of heaven. There is no crisis in heaven.
I’m even more convinced of the necessity of our Family Life Center because we will see unprecedented growth in the days ahead as people earnestly seek the Lord during these uncertain times. I heard on the news yesterday that stores are selling twice as many Bibles as they ever have before because people are searching for answers. This past Wednesday night at AWANA, there were over 150 kids in this room! Many of the Sparks had to share a chair!
Before I begin let me say that this sermon is addressed primarily to those of you who consider PBC to be your church home. If you’re visiting this morning, we’re thrilled that you’re here! Much of what I’m going to say applies to the PBC family and you get the privilege of listening in. Please don’t feel like we’re after your money today, because we’re not. As I’ve said before, I recognize the risk of preaching about giving and I promise to not pressure you to do anything you don’t sense God leading you to do.
Let’s start by summarizing what the Old Testament teaches about giving. We’ll do that by camping in a verse from the book of Malachi. We’ll then spend the majority of our time focusing on how to give with grace from the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians.
Please turn in your Bibles to Malachi 3:10: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the LORD Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
1. Requirement. The first thing we notice about giving in the Old Testament is the word “tithe.” This word literally means “a tenth,” or 10%. While some would say that this requirement is based on the Law, it’s important to remember that Abraham practiced tithing 400 years before the Law was even established in Genesis 14:20 when he gave a tenth of everything he owned to the priest Melchizedek. Deuteronomy 12:11, which is part of the Law, challenges God’s people to bring their tithes and special gifts to the place of God’s choosing.
In Malachi’s time, the people had stopped bringing 10% of their possessions and crops to the Lord. Instead of giving God what was rightfully His, they had allowed other things to get in the way. Many of God’s people had made a pretense of giving 10%, but were actually giving much less than that. Incidentally, according to a recent study by the Barna Research Group, while 17% of Christians claim to tithe, in actuality only 6% do so. In addition, the average churchgoer is only giving about 2% of their income to the Lord’s work. That means that God is just getting the leftovers in many churches today.
2. Response. God not only required a tithe in the Old Testament, He challenged His people to respond to Him when He says, “Test me in this.” This is the only time in the Bible when God tells us to test Him. In every other passage that deals with testing God, we’re told to not do so. But, for some reason, when it comes to giving, God invites us to test Him because the real issue is not money, but trust. When we decide to give a percentage of our income to the Lord, we then have the opportunity to trust Him to meet all of our needs.
God is saying, “I dare you! Test me in this way to see if I really exist or not.” This is one of the most amazing verses in the entire Bible. He allows Himself to be put on trial. He didn’t have to make this promise. He could have simply told us to give 10% because He demands it and that’s that. But He wanted us to get to know Him in a much deeper way. Is God alive? Is He real? Is He loving? Will He keep His promises? One of the best ways to find out is to start tithing.