THE NEXT LOGICAL QUESTION. Having looked at what the Scriptures say to us regarding the “what” of cheerful giving, the tithes and offerings, the next logical question that would come to the curious mind is “Why give?” We have heard over and over again that the Lord owns it all so it is not as if He needs our wealth. Therefore, “Why?”
APPROACHING THE OLD TESTAMENT. One of the issues that Christians most commonly deal with is how to relate to the Old Testament since the Old Testament covenant between God and His people was all preparatory and foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus whereby the New Covenant would be ushered in through His blood. Therefore, many of the laws and prescriptions of the Old Testament are no longer applicable because Jesus put a fulfilled/completed or put an end to them. There are others, as we saw last week, in regards to worship, godly living, etc… that still apply to the people of God not as a way to merit salvation but as guidelines for living a life that honors and glorifies God as His people. Paul offers us an important teaching about how the Christian relates to the Old Testament in 1 CORINTHIANS 10:11. With this in mind, we are going to look at a message given to God’s people through the Old Testament and seek to understand WHY we are to worship God with our wealth.
“BREAD” IN THE HOUSE
The Law, in particular DEUTERONOMY 14:29, teaches that the purpose of the tithe was for the ministry that flowed from the Temple. The Levites (Priests) that were set apart by God to serve in the Temple were to be provided for by the tithes of the people. There were supplies that were needed for the ministry that flowed from the Temple and the tithes were used for such. Furthermore, the poor, fatherless, sojourner, and widowed were to be ministered to through the meeting of their needs with the tithes that were brought into the storehouse of God by His people. Therefore, when we read “so that there may be bread in MY house” we can understand that the tithe is the means whereby God has chosen to, very practically speaking, fund the ministry to and of His people.
THE MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH. As we take this eternal truth from the days of old and bring it over to our current day we see the same thing taking place. The ministry of the local church is funded by the tithes and offerings of God’s people. In a very real sense, we give of our tithes and offerings to the local church so that there may be “bread” in the house of the Lord. This is not physical bread, as it was in the Old Testament but spiritual bread. Jesus said that He is the BREAD OF LIFE—JOHN 6:32-35—and the ministry of the local Church is to be about worshipping, adoring, proclaiming and teaching Jesus—the BREAD OF LIFE. Therefore, when we worship God with our wealth through the tithes and offerings we are doing so in order that there may be BREAD IN THE HOUSE.
• LIVES TOUCHED AT FBC: These people have been impacted by this faith family because there was “bread in the house” because of your tithes and offerings.
o CONSERVATIVE NUMBERS: $1,000,000 over 6 years/local church ministry. $225,000 special offerings for missions—TAKING “BREAD” TO THE WORLD.
When you worship God with your wealth through the giving of tithes and offerings God uses that for the ministry to and of His people. We are ministered to through the ministries of the local church and we minister to the world through the proclamation of Jesus. Therefore, when you give you are giving to something bigger than yourself and that is a good thing; and eternal investment.
GROWING IN FAITH:
“’TEST ME!’ SAYS THE LORD AND GROW IN YOUR FAITH IN ME!” In the withholding of the tithes and offerings God’s people were revealing just how shallow, fragile and failing their faith had grown in Him. God, desiring their faith in Him to be great invites them to test His faithfulness to bless and supply their need. There is nowhere else in the Scriptures where we are told to “test” the Lord. As a matter of fact, it is said that we should not put the Lord our God to test (DEUT. 6:16; MATT. 4:7). However, there is an exception to the ‘rule’ here because it is God who instructs His people to test Him in this area. The fact that the Lord would invite us to test Him in the area of our finances reveals just how heated the competition can be for our hearts when it comes to money/wealth. This, I believe, is why Jesus warned us so much about the unique dangers and threats of money/wealth during His ministry. He knows our hearts and how quick we are to lack faith in His love and care for us and to begin to place our faith in things of this world as if they could ever really meet our deepest needs. God’s invitation to test Him in this area is a call back to full faith in who He is—provider.
OVERFLOWING BARNS? God promises to bless His people’s obedience with a “overflowing” blessing when they return to Him and honor Him with their wealth. There are some people to whom “the overflowing” blessing of Malachi 3 is financial. I have known some very wealthy, Jesus-loving people who are very generous with what they have been given and they testify that they more they give of what they have the more they receive and the more they receive the more they give and on and on and on. They are the people who exemplify MATTHEW 25:20-21 for they were faithful with what was given to them so God knew they would be faithful with more. Health and wealth preachers like Joel Olsteen, Joyce Meyer and others teach from this passage that we should tithe so God will make us rich. The desire is not to honor God but to honor human greed for those who teach such. Clearly, the thought that God wants the Christian to be wealthy is false from a biblical perspective—disciples, Paul, etc…
WHAT TO DO WITH ABUNDANCE? However, should God’s blessing come in the form of abundance—which it has and does for we all have much more than we need and we live according to greed rather than need—what is to be done with the abundance? Store it up? Hoard it? Consider LUKE 12:13-21. When ABUNDANCE comes upon us from God we are called to be a people who live according to our need, not our greed. WHEN WE LIVE ACCORDING TO OUR NEED RATHER THAN ACCORDING TO OUR GREED THEN WHEN THE ABUNDANCE COMES IT WILL NOT BE USED TO FEED OUR GREED BUT TO GLORIFY GOD BY THROUGH GENEROUSLY MEETING THE NEEDS OF OTHERS IN THE NAME OF JESUS THROUGH THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT FOR THE GLORY OF THE FATHER AMONG THE NATIONS!
THE “ABUNDANTE BLESSING” OF JOY AND PEACE IN OBEDIENCE. Sometimes, however, the blessing that comes and overflows our barns is not financial but in things like peace and joy of obedience and the privilege of growth in the faith. God knows our hearts and, quite honestly, for some of us more money would not better our lives but simply destroy us. I have a Christian friend who has said on many occasions, “Why won’t God just make me rich?” and the answer is because He knows our hearts and He knows what the outcome would be if He were to make you rich so it is by His grace and the blessing is that He doesn’t make you rich because riches would ruin you.
ADJUSTING OUR GRIP:
“RETURN TO ME.” God’s people were holding tighter to their material wealth than they were to their Heavenly Father. When God calls His people to obedience in the tithe it is not because He needs their money but because He wants their hearts. ‘RETURN TO ME’ is the call of MALACHI 3:7. If you notice verse 11 you will see that God had been allowing the “devourer” to damage their crops—aka their wealth. They were holding tightly to that which was being destroyed by bugs at the expense of holding tightly to the One who has proven Himself trustworthy and true to them over and over again.
THE FOLLY OF “HOLDING ON” TO THAT WHICH RUINS. Why did God allow the “devourer” to have its way in their wealth? Because He wanted His people to learn the folly of holding tightly to that which can be so easily destroyed at the expense of their hold on to Him as His people and return to Him. That reminds us of what God said in AMOS 4:9. The same principle applies to us today. God wants so readjust our grip and one of the ways He does that it through the call to be generous people. He desires for us to be an “OPEN HANDED PEOPLE” when it comes to things of this world, especially wealth. What I mean is that He knows that we are inclined to cling tightly to the things of this world—to place our faith in them, to hope in them, to bow to them as our Lord—and in saving us, He has done so to readjust our grip in life. He has freed us from the foolishness of trusting in, or gripping tightly to, things which cannot save, bring real joy, peace or hope and so our grip on this world lessons as we grow in our faith in Him and our grip, so to speak, on Him tightens—MATTHEW 6:19-21.
So, while it might appear that the “destroyer” being loosed upon the fields of Israel was a bad thing, it was actually a good thing as God was calling them to a life where they held on to Him tighter than they held on to the world. The natural progression of the Christian life is one of loosening our grip on the things of this world and tightening our grip on Him and as we realize that He alone is worthy of our love, worship, adoration, praise and devotion worshipping Him with our wealth through tithes, offerings and beyond will bring joy, peace and comfort because we know, by our actions, that in the giving away of that which will be destroyed we are not trusting in it or bowing to it as a false god.