Saturday, April 18, 2015

Why give tithes and offerings?

Malachi 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows."

Why is it that on Sunday morning we have a portion of time in the church service dedicated to giving of monies into the offering plate? In hearing the attitudes and approaches to giving to God's work, three responses to that question are typically given. Some people honestly do not know why there is a portion of time in the church service for the giving of tithes and offerings. Within this first response there may very well be those who don't think tithing (giving 10%) is for today or others who don't feel there is a point. Others may even question the value of including the opportunity for people to give to the Lord's work, since it is perceived it may give off the "wrong message" of greed. This first response represents those who have not been introduced to the full biblical teaching on stewardship.

The second response represents those folks who give out of duty. Their parents taught them as children to give to the Lord's work, and so they do so out of duty. Duty is a good place to start when beginning to obey the Lord in an area, however if it does not graduate to delight and desire out of love for God, the joy that accompanies giving to the Lord's work will not be experienced. 

The third type of response is one of genuine delight, privilege and desire to give to the Lord's work. It is this third group of responses that is most remarkable, since the natural human tendency is not to give for the sake of others or for the sake of God's glory, but to keep and hoard for oneself. To give to God's work for the sake of advancing that work represents the right heart and response it the realm of giving. Giving of one's tithes (10% of one's gross earnings) is still for today, contrary to what some may teach. There is not one passage of scripture cancelling out the practice and if anything, the New Testament standard would suggest that tithing is the ground floor of where we begin to tithe. Offerings represents that level of giving beyond the tithe. Whenever Paul was telling the church at Corinth to give in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, he was reminding them to fulfill the love offering for the church at Jerusalem. 

Checking our motives for giving is a good practice. If someone where to ask me why give of one's tithes and offerings, I would cite the one and main reason: Because God in His greatness gave the Greatest. Think about the following thoughts below...

1. We give because God is Great
We focused in yesterday's post about how we need God's Greatness. God's Greatness must be the beginning and ending points of the Christian life, otherwise our motives for doing what we do and living how we live will quickly lead to shallow commitment and cold love. Giving in stewardship is no different. In the great tithing text of Malachi 3:8-12, we find a logical connection to Malachi 3:6“For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed." Why focus on the Greatness of God's immutability in a blog post dealing with why we give? Think about how often your circumstances and finances go up and down. One sickness, one broken-down car or a sudden change in the economy can quickly change how we view finances and resources. But now God never changes. He is ever faithful. The way in which His promises work are based entirely upon His unvarying and unwavering character. On the churning seas of life, God must be the anchor and lighthouse to Whom we look. Unless we are convinced God will never change, then our motives for giving will quickly become man-centered. I am convinced that negligence in the area of stewardship is due to a diminished or non-existent vision of the Greatness of God. But notice also a second reason we give....

2. We give because of the Gospel
The clearest Old Testament command to bring one's tithes to the storehouse would be nothing more than a command of law if we did not consider it's wider context. Malachi 3 begins with a prophecy of how the Messiah will come in His first coming, as evidenced by the reference to the forerunner in Malachi 3:1. Matthew 11:10, 14; Mark 1:3; Luke 7:37 and John 1:6-7 point back to Malachi as one of the prophecies concerning John the Baptist as the forerunner of the Messiah. Without a doubt the prophecy speaks mainly about conditions that will characterize Jesus' second coming, however the prophetic reference to Jesus' first coming is also included. The fact that John the Baptist's ministry is described by both Malachi's prophecy in Malachi 3 and the opening verses of Isaiah 40 testify to the Gospel setting that motivates why we give to the Lord's work. The law of God points to the Gospel. The giving of the Gospel to others and the anticipation thereof is the second reason we give of tithes and offerings, in addition to the first reason - God's greatness. Now lets consider one final reason.. 

3. We give because God gave Jesus as a tithe
This third reason truly ties together the first and second motives behind why God's people are to give to God's work. A curious phrase is used to describe the manner in which God gave the Son for our salvation. 1 Corinthians 15:20 states - "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep." The title "first-fruits" comes directly from the Old Testament setting of the Jews giving of a portion of the first of their harvest. Passages such as 2 Chronicles 31:5 and Nehemiah 10:37 equate the giving of the first-fruits of the ground or the first-lings of the flock with the act of tithing. The logic of scripture is quite plain on this point:

Premise #1 To give of one's firstfruits is to give of the tithe

Premise #2 Jesus is the first-fruit, given by God

Hence, Jesus is God's tithe

To insure the point is made as clear as possible, we give because God gave. Consider Romans 8:32 "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" John 3:16 clearly reminds us - “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

Closing thoughts
So in closing today, we proposed three reasons why God's people ought to give of tithes and offerings in addition to the fact that it is commanded throughout scripture. First, we give because God is Great. God is so great that He owns everything and His unchanging character guarantees the blessedness that comes with stewardship. Second, we give for the sake of the Gospel. Giving enables the giving forth of Gospel to those in need of it. Then thirdly, giving is done because God gave Jesus as the ultimate tithe or firstfruit. These are the motivations for giving of tithes and offerings. So what are we waiting for? Let's give for the glory of God!

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