Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Principles For Beginning To Tithe To God's Work

Image result for giving to God's work
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."


In today's post we want to explore what one needs to consider when heeding God's Word in starting to give 10% or the tithe of one's income to God's work.

Important concepts to grasp when starting to tithe

I will never forget when my wife and I made the commitment to God to begin tithing our weekly income. It was a commitment that I especially wrestled with and, at the time, didn't have an opinion either way. However, when I studied God's Word on the subject and my wife and I had heard a couple of sermons on the topic - we knew God was dealing with our hearts. The time for Biblical giving needed to begin. 

For anyone who is a first-time giver, knowing the Bible's terminology for stewardship can be very eye-opening. A quick survey of the entire Bible reveals two interrelated terms to describe the beginning act of tithing and stewardship.  

A. First-fruits. We find the term "first fruits" (for crops) or "firstlings" (for animals) used over 30 times. First fruits has to do with the "when" of giving, that is, giving the very first portion, off the top, of our gross earning. Practically speaking, whenever you cash your paycheck, taking out the tithe ought to occur before grocery money, bill money or fun money.

B. The term "tenth" used in giving situations almost 25 times and the word "tithe" used 40 times.  This term speaks of the "how much" of stewardship. 10% represent the ground floor of giving. Anything beyond is "offering" and extraordinary amounts enter into the "sacrificial" giving categories. Further exposition on these categories will be given below.

Now we just mentioned what the Bible calls "offerings", which are those amounts given beyond the tithe. I would suggest that Paul's collection for the church in Jerusalem in Romans 15:25-33; 1 Corinthians 16:1-9; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 is a form of offering beyond the tithe - with the tithe assumed but not mentioned in the context. 

We could also talk about what is called "sacrificial giving", that is, the type of giving that involves extraordinary proportions of one's income or even all of one's income to God's work. The woman with the "mite" or the equivalency of two pennies is an example of sacrificial giving - meaning that Jesus commended her for "giving everything" (see Mark 12:41-44). 

Now I only mention these other concepts to drive home the point that the level of "tithing" one's income is not the goal, but the ground-floor of Biblical stewardship. It is at this entry-level that one is able to hear God in terms of how they are to proceed with their finances and resources. At first it may seem hard, however, once you get in the practice of giving the tithe - you will find yourself gradually wanting to give above that level - whether of offerings or even the rarer but exceptional sacrificial level.  

Meet three first-time tithers in the Bible: Abel, Abraham and Jacob

Three ancient believers mentioned in Genesis could be termed "the Bible's first tithers".

The first is Abel. In Genesis 4:4 "Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering." Quite literally, God decided to bless Abel for the fact he had brought the "first" or the "best" to God.  The principle of first fruits or firstling is connected to "tithing" in passages such as Deuteronomy 18:4,12,21,24. 

The second first-time tither is Abram in Genesis 14:20.  This passage is significant being that it is the first mention of the term "tithe" in the Bible. God gave Abraham a mighty victory over the confederation of the five kings of Chedorlaomer. As Abraham returns from battle, he meets the mysterious figure Melchizedek, whom according to Psalm 110 and Hebrews 5-7 is none other than a pre-incarnate (before the flesh) appearance of Jesus Christ. As Melchizedek blesses Abraham, we read in Genesis 14:18-20 "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. (19) He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; (20) And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all." There we see Abram giving Melechizedek, who is Christ in disguise, a tenth of the spoils of victory. 

The third tither in the early Biblical record is Abraham's grandson Jacob. Genesis 28:22 reads: "This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” Just as his grandfather before him, Jacob had "believed God and it was credited to Him as righteousness" (compare Genesis 15:6). Undoubtedly we can say that Genesis 28 marks Jacob's conversion.  What is one of the first-fruits that a change has occurred in Jacob's life? How he views his possessions! It is in this text where we see the word "tenth" used, which is the exact meaning of the word "tithe" and of course is associated with the term "first-fruits".  All three of these early "tithers" are significant being that they establish God's pattern for giving hundreds of years before the giving of the law on Mount Sinai.

Closing thoughts for today

More could be said about what to consider when starting out to give of one's tithe in stewardship to the Lord. For now at least, we have a solid, Biblical foundation to build upon as we seek to follow the Lord in giving to His work. We saw how tithing and first-fruits are interrelated concepts. We also saw how tithing represents the ground-level at which one enters when taking to heart God's promises in the realm of finances. Then finally, we saw three illustrations of first-time tithers (Abel, Abram and Jacob). May this post prove helpful to those who are desiring to know better what God has to say in terms of tithing and stewardship. 

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