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.
• Protect the least (Dt. 14:28-29) There was one more tithe that was required of the Israelites. But this was not an annual tithe. It was every three years. Stay in Deuteronomy 14 and skip down to verses 28-29:
28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
This was basically a community ministries tithe. Notice that the produce was to be laid up within your towns. And the purpose was to care for the poor in your community: the Levite (remember, they didn’t have any land allotment) the sojourner—that means immigrants and aliens that were living in your town, as well as orphans and widows.
So, to summarize, there wasn’t just one tithe. There were three. One supported the priests who helped the people know God better; one provided for the feasts so that people could worship, or love God better, and one cared for the homeless and hungry in your community, so you could love your neighbor better. Know God, Love God, Love Your Neighbor. Sound familiar?
Oh, and one more thing: For those of us who are tempted to say, “Well, I’m going to stick with the letter of the law and just give my ten percent,” Do the math: It was never just 10 Percent!. Every year, your first ten percent went to the sacred tithe. Then, ten percent of your remaining 90% went to the festival tithe. And every three years, you were to set aside another ten percent for the poor. So for a righteous, upstanding Jew, the annual obligation was actually closer to 23%.
Which brings us to our next big question as New Testament believers:
Does tithing still apply?
Yes… Notice that when Jesus called out the Pharisees in Luke 11:42, he didn’t condemn them for tithing. He condemned them for only tithing. His criticism for them was that they were observing the external command withourt letting it ever touch the heart.
42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Luke 11:42)
And just as the sacred tithe (which remember, was instituted before the law) went to support those that were teaching and preaching God’s word, we are still obligated to care for our pastors.
• We still support those who preach the gospel (Mt. 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Cor. 9:6-14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18)
o When Jesus sent His disciples out for their preaching mission, He instructed them to rely on the hospitality of the people they were serving. In both Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7, He said, “the laborer deserves His food.” Paul repeats these words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5.
o In 1 Cor. 9:14, Paul taught that “those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.”
So yes, about 44% of our 2020 budget goes to staff compensation, in order to pay salary and benefits for four pastors and two ministry assistants.
• We still are called to care for the poor (1 Tim 6:17-19; 1 Cor. 16)
Poor people didn’t disappear from the Old Testament to the New Testament. And neither did the expectation that God’s people would care for their needs.
Just a few verses after Paul instructed Timothy to provide for the needs of those who were preaching the gospel, he also reminded him to encourage the rich to give to the poor.
17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
About 19% of our 2020 budget is designated for either missions or community ministries. In addition, once a quarter we collect a benevolence offering to help us with community ministries.
Paul’s most extended teaching on giving to the poor is given in 1 Corinthians 16. This is the passage that brings us back to the passage we read at the beginning of the service. You see, in AD 46-47, there was a severe famine that swept throughout Jerusalem and Israel. We first read about it in Acts 11. And so as Paul began planting churches throughout Asia, he took up a collection in each town to go back to Jerusalem. You read about it in Acts 11, when he and Barnabas present an offering to the Jerusalem church from the Antioch church. He talks about the collection for the saints in Jerusalem several times throughout his writings: 1 Corinthians 16, 2 corinthians 8, Romans 15, Galatians 2:10.
There’s a lot of really fascinating things about this. For one thing, who is Paul talking to: Jews, or Gentiles? That’s right. Were Gentiles obligated to obey the Jewish law? No. And neither are we.
1. We’re no longer under the law (Rom. 6:14–15; 7:5–6; Gal. 3:15–4:7; 2 Cor. 3:4–18).
o Romans 6:14—Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace.
o Romans 7:6: We are released by the law and free to serve in the new way of the Spirit
o Galatians 4:5: Christ came to redeem those who are under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
You see, Jesus set us free from rigid obedience to the law. We aren’t required to tithe because the law says we must.
2. Instead, Tithing has been replaced by generosity (2 Corinthians 8:9) Again, think about who Paul is writing to. Not only were the Gentiles not under the law, but probably the vast majority of them would never see Jerusalem. They were giving to help people who lived hundreds of miles away from them, spoke a different language than they did, had different customs and habits. And, to top it all off, as a general rule looked down their noses at Gentiles. They had every right to say, “Sorry Paul, not our fight.” “Nope, stinks to be them, but we’ve got problems here at home. And if they needed our help, maybe they should have thought about that all those times they wouldn’t even eat with us because it would make them unclean. We need to take care of our own. Asia first, right?
So how did Paul appeal to them? Paul never minimized their own poverty. Instead, in 2 Corinthians 8:2, he emphasized it:
8 We want you to know, brothers,[a] about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace.
And Paul knew he couldn’t command the church at Corinth. He says in verse 7-8, “—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, I say this not as a command, but to prove that your love is genuine.”
And then the kicker:
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
Jesus had every reason to stay in Heaven. “Hey, I hate it that those people down there are waging war against sin, but that’s not my war. Things up here are perfect.”
And besides, those people don’t even like me. They’re like, lost. Lost people aren’t like me. And lost people don’t like me. If I go to them, it could be dangerous. Its gonna cost me something.
Jesus could have done every bit of that. But look again at verse 9: The grace of our Lord Jesus is that though He was rich, for our sake he became poor. That’s the gospel.
So, yeah, tithing is not a requirement. Those of us who are called to imitate Christ are not obligated to give 10 percent.
Those of us who are called to imitate Christ are obligated to give much more than that. Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t stop at ten percent?
• Jesus was scourged for us. That means He was given 39 lashes with a Roman cat o nine tails. Aren’t you glad He didn’t command them to stop after 4? That would have been ten percent. But Isaiah 53 says that it is by His stripes we are healed. Thank God He took the full 39!
• He was on the cross for 6 hours. Aren’t you glad he didn’t call down ten thousand angels to rescue him after thirty six minutes? That’s ten percent. But no, He finished the work of our salvation on the cross (John 19:30)
• And when He gave the great commission, aren’t you glad He didn’t tell His disciples, “Go into ten percent of the world and preach the gospel to ten percent of the people?” Because where would that leave us if the gospel stopped at ten percent.
So as we look at our budget, as I said last week, its an aggressive budget. Last year, in order to meet our weekly budget needs, we needed nearly $18,000 a week. In 2020, if you vote on our proposed budget, its going to require almost two thousand dollars more per week.
I want to speak to our faithful tithers and say thank you for your commitment to the ministry at Glynwood Baptist Church. But don’t make your tithe a checklist. Please don’t fall into the legalism of saying, “Well, I’ve fulfilled my obligation. The other 90% is MY money. Remember that according to the law, the obligation didn’t stop at ten percent.
But I also want to speak to those who don’t tithe. I don’t want to guilt you into giving. I simply want to turn your attention back to 2 Corinthians 8:9, and ask, “do you know the grace of our Lord Jesus?” If you do, then let that prompt you to cultivate a heart of generosity. And if you don’t, then you can know His grace starting today…