The idea of giving from our material substance to the church in support of its ministry dates back to the setting up of worship by Jehovah. “A tithe of everything from the land, …belongs to the Lord.” Leviticus 27:30-33 Proverbs 3:9,10 admonishing, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first-fruits of all your crops; (with the accompanying promise) then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” The Prophet Malachi equating withholding the tithe as robbery! God further challenging Israel to trust him in their giving, assuring them of blessing in return for their faithfulness, promising “…see if I will not throw open the flood-gates of heaven and pour out so much blessing, that you will not have room enough for it.” Malachi 3:7-10
The New Testament doesn’t specifically address tithing as a function of the church. Matthew 23:23,24 does however describe Christ’s reply to a question from the, “…teachers of the law and Pharisees,… (by saying) You give a tenth of your spices... But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” But even though there is no ‘Thus saith the Lord’ declaring a ‘tithe,’ the church has traditionally held that as Christians we certainly shouldn’t expect to do less than the Jewish worshippers who preceded us; the concept of stewardship being dealt with decisively by Christ in a number of places – none more so than in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. (See 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 as well.)
But this article is not about tithing. It is about our relationship to money versus our relationship with and responsibility to God. Regardless of our age or place in life, acquiring money is a prime objective – for education, living expenses, settling into a job, starting a family, buying a car, acquiring a house, paying for a baby, etc! For those who are younger, it is also a time when it will never be easier for you to get in the habit of giving; for your responsibilities will only grow as you do! God cares what we do with money, this topic being dealt with in scripture repeatedly. Why? Because it often reveals the condition of our hearts and the attitude of our minds. For even though the Bible doesn’t teach that money is bad, it does caution us that, “…godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it... People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
History has repeatedly shown man’s propensity for surrendering the best of his birthright for the comforts of the moment; the cultural treasures of the previous age sold cheap – it’s wealth trampled underfoot in the quest for something better. Which begs the question – how much is enough? Maybe better phrased – how much can you handle? Jesus dealing with this concept by declaring, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:23 Does that mean only the poor qualify for heaven? No. But the problem a rich person often has begins when they stop managing their money and it begins managing them, their confidence based on wealth rather than God. As money becomes their standard of success, they lose the ability to differentiate between what they need and what they want. If money is a major priority – be careful. If money becomes the priority – beware!
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 Does that mean we are never to attempt to better our condition or make plans for the future? Certainly not. It does challenge us to place our trust in God and depend on him for our needs rather than depending on our own abilities and money’s power to see us through. For you will never have enough, as the more you have, the more you’ll want. Jesus warning us to, “…consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” Luke 8:18 A rather cryptic warning; not dealing exclusively with material possessions or wealth, but important none-the-less in our understanding of stewardship. If you use what you are blessed with wisely, you may get more. If used selfishly, you just may lose it all. (See 2 Corinthians 9:11 as well) As Christian success in money matters often depends on how we use what we already have – the importance of giving and sharing taking precedence over merely having or accumulating.
Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24 But must we choose between establishing a relationship with God and acquiring financial success? Jesus said you can not SERVE God and money. Whether that happens or not depends on setting priorities and deciding who or what is Lord of your life. That’s why it is so important now to decide what your goals are!
The availability of time and money has always been an issue, one Jesus dealt with in answering a question posed by a young man who asked him what he needed to do to gain eternal life. Jesus told him to obey the commands of God, to which the young man claimed he had done; as he had refrained from doing evil, probably having done some good deeds as well. But Jesus wanted him to take it a step further by becoming actively involved in the lives of others by using his wealth for their betterment. “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor,… Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:16-24 (See also Luke 12:33) Did he really have to give it all away? I don’t know that God expects that in every situation but we must be willing to give all we have if he wills it; possibly just exchanging it for something different. He may give it right back and accept your service where you are in the position you now hold. But he may want you to change jobs, downsize your expenses; by changing homes, driving a less expensive car, going to a different school, changing your course of study. If he does, we must be fully committed and completely willing to do so. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 (See also Luke 14:33)
Jesus taught that, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35 Paul enlarged on this theme by instructing “Command those who are rich in this present world (Which includes us all in comparison to much of the rest of the world) not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, (Remember the wealthy, but foolish farmer from Luke 12:16-21) but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. “ 1 Timothy 6:17-18
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