Summary: A look a the concept of tithing from Melchizedek on.
We don’t know a whole lot about him, and what we do know is buried in mystery. We know that he was the King of Salem, we know that he was a priest of the Most High God, we know that he had a funny name and we know that Abraham thought enough of him that he made an offering of ten percent of everything he owned to him.
He is fairly obscure. He’s first mentioned in Genesis 14 where he is given a total of three verses. He’s not mentioned again until Psalm 110:4 where David makes reference to the coming Messiah and writes The LORD has taken an oath and will not break his vow: “You are a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek.”
And then nothing, not in Proverbs, or Ecclesiastes, none of the prophets mention him. Melchizedek’s name doesn’t come up in any of the gospels or the book of Acts. Paul doesn’t mention him in the Pauline Epistles or the Pastoral Epistles. Epistles are not the wives of the apostles; it’s simply a fancy name for letters. And then all of a sudden the Author of the book of Hebrews writes 14 verses about this mystery king, drawing some interesting comparisons between Melchizedek and Jesus.
But what we are interested in this morning is the fact that the story of Melchizedek and Abraham in Genesis is the first recorded instance of someone financially providing for God’s work. Individual’s offerings had been given before but this is the first time that a representative of God is given a set portion of someone’s income.
One of the top three reasons given in an extensive survey of non believers as to why they didn’t attend church was "because they are always asking for money." I don’t blame people, I guess probably churches are constantly asking for finances but I wonder why that is. And besides people don’t stop attending the Lions Club or the rotary or the Kinsman and they are always asking for money. At least we don’t levy fines during our meetings. Every year we have door knock appeals from the Red Cross, and the Cancer Fund, and the Kidney Foundation and a dozen other worthy causes and yet people don’t say hey they only interested in money.
Maybe the reason the world feels negative about the church and finances is that they don’t feel like they are getting anything in return or that the church doesn’t contribute anything to the community. But then again the bible doesn’t tell us that we are a service organization, and the only thing that the scripture requires us to put back into society is better people and I guess when everything is said and done that’s a pretty important contribution. But God never expected the world to support the church. From its very beginnings the church carried its own load. You can hunt through the New Testament and you won’t find any reference to the early church having a bagel drive to raise funds or having a Saturday catacomb sale or a chariot wash. But you will find instances like Acts 2:44-45 And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. And Acts 4:32 All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. Now that is a fairly radical concept of giving and a pretty radical concept of living. And nobody can really say whether or not that communal concept extended beyond the first generation of believers in Jerusalem.
But we know that the churches that sprung out of the initial movement continued to be generous. Even the Corinthian church which was criticized for sexual immorality and theological error was commended for their generosity in giving to the work of the kingdom. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he urged them to give, we can find that in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now about the money being collected for the Christians in Jerusalem: You should follow the same procedures I gave to the churches in Galatia. 2 On every Lord’s Day, each of you should put aside some amount of money in relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once. the result of that admonition is found in 2 cor 8:10 where Paul commended the Corinthians by saying: last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Wow not only were they the first to give but they desired to give. Would kind of remind you of what Paul said about the Macedonian churches, listen to this, 2 Corinthians 8:2-4 Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the gracious privilege of sharing in the gift for the Christians in Jerusalem.