It has been a moment since the first post in this series of studies about giving from a biblical perspective, and I apologize for that! I’ve been busy, but I am ready to go!
We left off with the story of Cain and Abel and that giving is inherent in us. We are created in the image of God, and built into us is the heart to give. If we fast-forward a bit, we come across the “father of faith” for ALL OF US–Abraham.
If we look into the life of Abraham we will see that tithing recognizes who our source is. As a result, Abraham separated himself from everyone else.
Set the Stage
Abraham’s life is a life of adventure and faith. Genesis 14:18-24 records Abraham (Abram) giving a tenth to the “priest of God Most High”, Melchizedek. The offering was his response to the blessing that Melchizedek had pronounced over Abraham. The story doesn’t end there!
The King of Sodom made a deal with Abraham; he keeps the slaves, and Abraham keeps the money. This wasn’t the deal Abraham was looking for. Abraham’s response to the King of Sodom is important to the narrative. Genesis 14:23 tells us, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, I made Abram rich.” Abraham chose to recognize God and God alone as his source for all provision in his life. Abraham’s tenth that he gives to Melchizedek is his response to God as his source.
GOD IS SOURCE
God being our source is important. Recognizing God’s provision means that we no longer look to employers or paychecks as the source for us. However, this runs much deeper than you think! Understand, that seeing God as source for those living in the biblical narrative, was absolute faith! They had to depend on God for the rain to fall, which would grow the crops that created the provision, that produced the seed that they needed for sowing. This was the life of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (even Esau), and ALL of their descendants.
This moves even into Exodus (where we will see later) that Israels faithfulness to God opened the windows of heaven to bring rains. This ultimately led to Baal worship and idolatry in Israel. The nations around Israel in Canaan worshiped other gods who were seen as “rain gods”. Faithlessness in worship, in faith and trust and in giving/tithing created lack of rain and provision, which allowed the devourer to enter their lives.
The bottom line is that tithing is recognition of God as THE source of provision. To see God as source requires a level of TRUST–something we will cover in the next post.
The smell of the holidays is in the air! We overstuff ourselves with the turkey, dressing, and all the fixings. While Thanksgiving day comes around once a year, giving thanks should never cease! As we get caught up in the Holiday season, understand that tithing IS an expression of being thankful!
Setting the Stage
In Genesis 28:18-22, Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, records his response after spending the night under the stars. That night, Jacob has a vision of Heaven by the Lord. Verse 22 begins with a word we see used in English; the word “And”. “And” is a conjunction; a connecting word that brings together two phrases or thoughts. In the Hebrew language, this word has a bit more significance.
The word “and” means ” in addition to”, and we use this word often when adding information in a discussion. But in the Hebrew language, there is a bit more purpose behind its use. “And” does connect thoughts, and carries a relational component as well. One bible dictionary calls it an expression of “demonstrative force”.
Demonstrative is an interesting word as well. According to Google and their oxford languages dictionary, this word means, “serving as conclusive evidence of something; giving proof.” The word means we DEMONSTRATE what we are saying. Jacob was connecting three thoughts: that God would be HIS God, that the pillar he set up and called “Bethel” would be God’s house, and the evidence or proof of both would be Jacob’s response in giving a tenth of ALL that God gives him! What God provides, Jacob would return a tithe as a declaration that God is HIS God.
The point Jacob is making is that we prove God’s Lordship in our lives, by demonstrating thanksgiving for his provision. I declare “I’m blessed”, and it is wonderful, but when Idon’t prove it by aresponse to God who has blessed me, then I spoke empty words.
And guess what? The purpose of tithing post-Exodus was for the same intention; declaring that God was the God of Israel! Today that does not change! What separates us from all others is that we continue to demonstrate Lordship by giving God a tenth of ALL that he provides for us! Like Israel, we today are also trying to get back to our Father’s House and God provides every step of the way! Let’s demonstrate He is Our God, through our giving along the way of this Journey to God’s House!
I know, I know… it has been a minute since I last posted anything here! And it would seem a bit strange to make my first post since Easter, be about giving! Not a hot topic, and certainly one that is quite controversial for almost everyone! At face value, what does the bible actually tell us about giving? I hope to dig into this and maybe spur you on to searching out with me. My plan is to cover a little bit at a time in multiple posts, so GET READY!
So many questions people ask to create “levels of faith” and obedience. Do you tithe on the gross or the net? Is tithing even suitable for the church of today? Statements like “the tithe is a “Jewish thing” that doesn’t apply to the church that is free from the law” don’t make the argument go away either. NEVERMIND your opinion on the matter!
Firstly, we must recognize that giving comes down to two categories: tithe and offering. A tithe is a “tenth” or ten percent. Offerings are over and above the tithe. With the simple definitions out of the way, we can now begin. And you always begin in the beginning! So from the beginning, we start with God and not ourselves.
The Heart of Giving comes from God!
John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God’s response to saving mankind wasn’t to take from but to give. God didn’t just give “whatever”, he gave his very best, his most prized and beloved, HIS SON. The heart of giving comes from God’s own selfless determination to give. In Genesis 1:29, “Look–I am giving to you every plant that bears seed which is on the face of the whole earth and every kind of tree that bears fruit. They shall be yours as food.” Since God created it all, it belongs to him, and he chose to give it. NOTHING that we have in our possession we actually own, it comes from the heart of God.
Genesis 1:26 says God created man in his image. God infused man with his quality of giving. SIN entering the world has injured this quality and manipulated our hearts into the opposite of giving: selfishness and greed. THIS IS IMPORTANT TO ESTABLISHING THE BASIS OF GIVING–BECAUSE THE BASIS OF GIVING BEGINS IN THE HEART!
God Gave us His Firsts!
In John 3:16, it is not just the heart of giving, but that God gave us the FIRST and not the last; he gave THE BEST and not the leftovers. Look at the life of Abel, Adam’s second-born son. Scripture says in Genesis 4:3-5, “And in the course of time Cain brought an offering from the fruit of the ground to Yahweh, and Abel also brought an offering from the choicest FIRSTLINGS of his flock. And Yahweh looked with favor to Abel and his offering, but to Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. ” This offering was an act of worship to God (Yahweh).
Was that cruel? NO! While Abel brought a First, Cain brought leftovers. It wasn’t that Cain’s offering was bad, it was the heart behind his gift that was his undoing. God is worthy of the best, not the leftovers! The point that Genesis is making is that God gave the very best, and he deserves our first and best in return!
In fact, didn’t God think that everything he had created was good? This would imply that his good by far outweighs our good since his good is His Best! At that time, good would simply be an abstract concept since there was nothing to judge good by. If God esteemed human creation to deserve the first and the best, did it not also mean that in return our worship given to Him should be our first and best? I think it does. Abel’s decision to worship God with the firstlings of his flock was a reflection of the heart of God in giving to us. Cain was selfish. He kept the firsts to himself.
The truth covered in this post is the foundation upon which I will build the case for a biblical understanding.
Too often I think that we skip over certain things, little details that matter to the whole of a story, in order for us to get the even bigger picture. There was a study done in which a basketball game was being played and the subjects were asked to watch the video. After the video, they were asked to talk about what they had seen. When it was all finished, the person conducting the study asked a weird question, “did you see the gorilla?” Now obviously I’m paraphrasing the story, but the point remains the same. The subjects were so focused on watching one thing that they completely missed all the details that would’ve added to the complete picture. I bring this up because sometimes even in Christianity, we can look at a passage of scripture and miss the bigger picture, solely because we are only looking at what we are conditioned to look at.
We’ve just finished the Easter celebration day this past Sunday, and I was afforded the opportunity to speak at a sunrise service; it was my FIRST one ever! What an awesome time that we had, worshipping together as the mosaic body of Christ that day (you see there is greater unity in diversity)! As I was preparing for that message, I ran across “the gorilla” of the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration. You might say there was no gorilla there, and that’s precisely my point, we’ve heard that story so many times that we have only focused on one area and we miss the bigger picture being discussed! Read Luke 9:28-31, “Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” There is a HUGE moment here, that doesn’t eclipse the Glory of Jesus begin revealed, but it certainly adds to the POWER of it.
It would be awesome to see Moses and Elijah showing up and talking with Jesus, in fact, I could see myself responding in the same manner as Peter, declaring that tabernacles should be built in honor of the moment! BUT it wasn’t who was talking with him that was important or even what Luke was focused on…NOPE…it was what they were talking about with Jesus! They were speaking about “his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem”. Even here, we pause and reflect and think to ourselves “they were talking about his resurrection and ascension” but that isn’t the case! It’s too easy to just talk about that, there had to be more! The word departure here means “exodus”. Wait, what? Exodus? Why whatever do you mean? I’m glad you asked! This is where the characters begin to take shape! When thinking about Exodus, we can only think about Moses leading one million Hebrew children out of Egypt, and 400 years of slavery, through the Red Sea, and into the promised land. But Israel wasn’t necessarily enslaved to Egypt, they were under Roman rule. According to scholars, Jesus would’ve aligned himself with those in Israel who believed in a Redemptive Activism. In other words, Jesus believed in the Redemption of Israel by the hand of the Lord. They believed that the reason that they were under foreign rule was because of sin as a nation, turning away from God and serving themselves as well as other gods. But redemption had to come at the price of repentance by Israel and a return to good works in order for God to bring the sweeping redemptive deliverance that they needed and wanted. Once they were delivered, they could then worship God in Freedom as they had done before the exile. Jesus came to pay the price to begin repentance! He was and is the perfect spotless lamb who was slain for the sins of not just Israel, but ALL of Humanity! They had to be delivered from the enslavement of sin and oppression because of their sin! Thus Moses arrives to talk it out with Jesus! I wonder how that conversation actually went…So then why is Elijah present? Glad you asked again! Elijah as a prophet was one whose main goal was to go throughout the land of Israel and speak on God’s behalf against sin and unrighteous acts, bringing the people to a place of reconnection with God through Repentance and restoration. He has some pretty cool stories to go along with ministry, but the main point is keeping the fires burning through returns to righteous living before God (remember the prophets of Baal?).
Two very KEY figures in the redemption, restoration, and life of Israel, and they both have come to talk about the exodus that Jesus was about to accomplish in Jerusalem! Jesus was bringing an Exodus that would be more powerful and freeing than the Historical deliverances of both Moses and Elijah. Not just because it was for Israel, but because it was for me and you too! Luke is relaying this not to a Jewish audience only, but to a Greek man named Theophilus who most likely commissioned Luke to recount the truth of Jesus’ ministry and the future impact of that Ministry. The fact that Luke uses the word “accomplish” tells us that it wasn’t a work he was starting, it was a work he was FINISHING! This of course leads us to the title of this blog, “He is Risen”. You see Jesus was paving the way for repentance and redemption through His Blood, and he was sealing and finishing the work, by establishing Freedom over sin, death, hell, and the grave by His Resurrection! The accomplishment of Jesus’ Exodus took place with the very first stripe he bore on his body till the stone was rolled away by an angel of the Lord 3 days later!
Today, we can celebrate that Jesus has led us out of captivity and enslaved captivity (Ephesians 4:18), by His Blood and Resurrection. YOU ARE LIVING THE EXODUS OF JESUS! Let’s rejoice by letting these lyrics be the song we sing as we are walking out of Enslavement and into OUR PROMISE…
“Hallelujah, Jesus is alive Death has lost its victory And the grave has been denied And Jesus lives forever He’s alive! He’s alive! He’s the Alpha and Omega The first and last is He The curse of sin is broken And we have perfect liberty The lamb of God has risen He’s alive! He’s alive!
It’s not hard during the month of February, to talk about Love. Cupid is constantly working his magic with arrows of love puncturing the hearts of would-be relationships. The smell of candy and roses permeates the air we breathe during this month and it’s always a good thing! The reason is that people are at the very least being cordial and loving towards one another; some relationships will mend, others will end with broken hearts….never mind all that! This isn’t even the subject of this post (well sorta…)
I just finished a series entitled “Love is in the Air”, and while it wasn’t about relationships as many churches and ministers might afford themselves the opportunity to talk about, NO this series circled around one(1) relationship, in fact, it is the MOST IMPORTANT relationship we can have– a relationship with God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
For us, the most important decision we can make is to RETURN to our First Love! For two years now, the body of Christ has been bogged down with concerns over COVID, which has limited our engagement with our community, fractured once-solid relationships, and brought progress to a near-screeching halt. Mostly due more or less, to the reality that we haven’t forgotten our first love, nor abandoned our first love, we have LOST the loving feeling towards our first love. Jesus and our relationship with him are more what we do than who we are becoming; it becomes “old hat”, so common that it is cast aside. I do that with old hats you know…when I get tired of wearing them and they just more or less make my head itch, I cast them aside and look at them every once in a while just determining when I will get rid of them or give them away for second-hand use by someone else! It’s a terrible thing to do and pretty sure Jesus doesn’t feel the love when we do it! John 3:16 (a common thread in this post) is filled with awe and wonder at the power of God through Jesus. The verses around it form a very important notice for us too: We have been saved from ourselves, and the old sinful nature which has so often kept us held down, and even more than that, have defeated DEATH, the one item man continuously attempts to defeat but never is able to do; ALL THIS THROUGH JESUS WORK IN COMING TO EARTH, DYING ON THE CROSS, AND RISING FROM THE GRAVE–NOW SEATED ON THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER IN HEAVEN ABOVE!
Another realization for us is that God’s Love Is…worth living through in this life in the world! Scripture declares that God’s Love is a refuge. Refuge, a place of shelter and help, and more importantly, the writer of Psalms 52 where we find this tells us that his love is UNASSAILABLE; that it cannot be attacked! God’s love for us can’t be attacked? That’s right you heard it here! That means that any attempted attack ends in failure before it begins! It is WE who allow it to be attacked, and in our minds render it defeated at times when it is still standing untouched and undaunted by the enemy. His Love is boundless, strong, and unmoveable! AND it was given to us and according to Scripture is “shed abroad” through us!
The funny thing about Love is that it is hardly ever represented right, and yet it is the KEY to the church making a real impact in our communities today! That Love is “shed abroad” in our hearts, implies that it isn’t for us to soak up like a sponge and hold onto (it is good to walk in and hold to but don’t miss the point…), it is to be shared with others. The reason: the CHANGE that it makes in All of us! This love is the great notifier of discipleship when expressed amongst us as believers, and this Love is THE game-changer when shared in the community at large. The truth is “we all want to be loved“
When thinking about February and that Love is in the Air, don’t go into it with thoughts of candy and flowers, rings, hearts, cupids, or cards, GO into it reminded that God Loves You, that Jesus is our FIRST Love, and that we should be sharing God’s love through our hearts because God’s Heart = Jesus’ Heart = Our Heart!