Summary: Guilt is a terrible motivator, because it works from the outside in. But grace works from the inside out. If you want to increase giving in your church, don't preach about tithing. Preach the gospel.
We are in the second week of a series we’re calling “Overflow: Living the Generous life.” As I told you last week, I want to be transparent with why we are doing this series at this time. This afternoon, we are going to present the largest budget in Glynwood’s history to the Church Leadership Conference and the deacons. After that, we will present it to the church, and in the coming weeks you will have a chance to vote on it.
Budgets are a big deal in any organization, but the problem is, nobody likes to talk about money, unless you are telling them how they can make more or how they can save more. Then, you suddenly have everyone’s attention. In the church, people especially don’t like talking about money. We’ve all heard sermons where someone tried to guilt us into giving more. Its like those commercials for animal shelters. I found a youtube video where someone filmed his response to one of those…
[this was a seven second youtube video of someone clicking off a humane society commercial. I found it from a youtube search of "Guilt Trip Commercials"]
The fact is, guilt is a terrible motivator. It might work in the short term, but eventually you’re just going to change the channel. So instead, this morning I don’t want to guilt you into giving. I want to GRACE you into giving. I promise we are going to get to our key passage, 2 Corinthians 8, but its not going to be until toward the end of the message.
A Short History of Old Testament Tithing
The first time we see any mention of making an offering to the Lord is when Adam’s sons Cain and Abel each make an offering to God (Genesis 4. Then, after the flood, Noah made an offering to the Lord (Genesis 8). But the first time we see anyone give a tenth is in Genesis 14, when Abraham gave Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High.
Then, in Genesis 28:22, Jacob vows to give God a tenth of everything he owns if God would protect him on his journey.
What’s interesting about both these accounts is that number one, they are both voluntary. No one told them to do it. They did it out of gratitude for how the Lord had provided for them.
But what’s also most interesting about this is that the principle of tithing came before God gave the Law to Moses. There are people who believe that Christians aren’t obligated to tithe because tithing was put in place by the law, and we are under grace. And we will talk more about whether we are obligated to tithe, but we can’t say that tithing is just connected to the Old Testament law.
But now let’s talk about what’s in the law. Most people think that the Bible teaches that a tithe is ten percent, and therefore you are supposed to give a tenth of your income. And that’s true. The Bible teaches that a tithe is ten percent. HOWEVER… there was more than one tithe.
In the law, there were actually three different tithes, and each of them had a different purpose.
The purpose of the tithe(s)
• Support the priests (Numbers 18:21,24) In Numbers 18, God commanded the people of Israel to give a tenth of all their produce to support the Levites. Since every other tribe got an allotment of the Promised Land, God instituted the tithe so His priests could be provided for. This one is sometimes called the sacred tithe, and it's actually a continuation of the tithe Abraham gave to Melchizedek. Melchizedek wasn’t just the King of Salem, he was also priest of the Lord most high. So the sacred tithe is still valid foe New Testament believers, because it was instituted before the Law.
• Observe the feasts (Deuteronomy 14:22-27). The second tithe that’s mentioned in the law had a totally different purpose. In Deuteronomy 14, God directed that every year, the Israelites would set aside ten percent of their grain, their wine, their oil, and the firstborn of their flocks. But check out what its for—verse 23 says its for you to eat when you go to Jerusalem for the annual feast. And if Jerusalem is to far away for you to easily carry a tenth of all this, verse 24 says you can convert it to cash.
Then, when you get to Jerusalem, according to verse 26, you can “spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.
Do you see what God is doing here? Families were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year. And that could get expensive. So God basically instituted the world’s first vacation savings plan—where a tenth of your annual income was set aside for the good of you and your family, so you could get away, observe the feast, and rejoice at how God had blessed you.