Monday, February 13, 2017

Gospel-Shaped Giving - Proverbs 3:5-10 and other scriptures

Image result for dollar bills
Proverbs 3:5-10 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones. 9 Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.


Years ago when I served in my very first official ministry capacity as an assistant pastor, a particular family in the church had invited everyone to their farm for a celebration. It was during the time of corn harvest, and this particular family was known for their generosity. Every year people from all over would come to get free bags of corn offered by the family. The family believed in the Biblical teaching on giving of one's "first-fruits". Our family had the opportunity to partake of the corn they offered - a blessing we never forgot. When a heart is committed to Biblical giving and stewardship, people get blessed and God is glorified.
Message: Gospel-shaped Giving

Today's post is going to explore the Bible's teaching on tithing and stewardship. Stewardship refers to how God takes you and I out of ownership and places us into the management of His resources. When we say resources - were not only talking about finances. Resources such as time, talents and our attention could be included. Nonetheless, one's finances tends to be the most tangible means of grasping this vital concept of what we will call: "Gospel shaped giving."
To summarize, every resource God gives is informed by and directed toward the Gospel. By the end of today’s post, you will know what you need to do in evaluating how much you trust God in the realm of Gospel-shaped giving. Gospel-shaped giving involves….

God’s Prescribed Amount = 10%. Prov 3:9

It doesn't take long getting into the Bible to find out what God has to say about tithing and stewardship. Three particular men occupy what we could call: "The Bible's first tithers", namely Abel, Abraham and Jacob. First, 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." The term "firstlings" or "first-fruits" tells me the “when” of giving, upfront, the very best. 

The second man is Abraham. Romans 4 and Galatians 3-4 describe Abraham as "the father of faith" and "an example of faith". Abraham is referred to as the example to Christian today due to the walk with God He had prior to the revelation of God's law. In Genesis 14:19-20 we read the following encounter Abraham (Abram) had with a mysterious figure, Melchizedek: "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." Per New Testament scriptures such as Hebrews 7:5-10, Melchizedek is none other than an Old Testament appearance of Jesus. Hence, Abram was giving the tithe to Jesus!

The third man whom we could consider a "first-time tither" is Abraham's grandson - Jacob. Jacob's conversion and subsequent actions are found in Genesis 28:22 "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.” Where did Jacob learn about tithing? Undoubtedly his grandfather. This reminds us of a very important point: it is up to parents and grandparents to model and teach Biblical stewardship to the children. 

The whole point of bringing forth Abel, Abram and Jacob is to show how God's prescribed amount, from the beginning, is 10%. Tithing is the ground-floor from whence one begins to give to God. I have often remarked how when we tithe, we begin to hear God on the matter of finances. The principle of first-fruits reminds us of the "when" of giving, meaning we give off the top, from the "gross" rather than the "net". After all, was it not God who supplied the gross? So God's prescribed pattern is 10%. Now lets hasten to the second point of Gospel-shaped giving...

Inviting God’s Blessing. Prov 3:10
God's blessing deals with His power and presence in our lives. Undoubtedly, scripture abounds with prime examples of how God's blessing is connected to tithing and stewardship: 
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." Luke 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed." 

So much could be said about these verses. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure, God wants to bless His people! He wants them to have more of His power and presence in their lives, their finances, in everything! When we tithe, we are opening a window to allow the fresh breezes of God's power and presence, by His Spirit, to breath upon our minds, our hearts and the material possessions. We find out how much God means to us and how much He is interested in the "little things". We find how powerful He is and how much He truly loves us. Finally, we find out that everything we have is not our, but what He has given us.

Validated Biblical Patterns. Context of Pr. 3:1-10

The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 notes: "According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause on earth." In studying the roughly 100 scriptures on stewardship in Bible, we find the following Biblical validated patterns…

A. First, tithing was instituted pre-law as the ground-level for stewardship, hence it is a standard that was not abolished despite the doing way of the ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic Law.

B. Second, the New Testament never one time shows tithing as being either prohibited, replaced or removed from the Christian's responsibility of stewardship. Hebrews 7:5-10, the last mention of tithing, is not abolished. Hence, Christians ought to give.

So, Gospel-shaped giving entails God's prescribed amount (10%), invites His blessing and is validated Biblically. But the whole point of today's post is to remind us of the goal of giving to God's work - namely to...

Exalting Jesus Christ. Prov 3:9 “honor the Lord”
Gospel-shaped giving is gospel-shaped when it exalts Jesus Christ. The terminology of stewardship "i.e first-fruits") is used to describe Christ Himself. Note for example 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming

In terms of salvation, believers represent  and are called the “first-fruits” or fore-taste of better things to come. 1 Corinthians 16:15 states - "Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints)". Or again, James 1:18 "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures." 

What makes giving to God's work "Gospel-shaped" is how it points us to Christ and goes towards supporting the work of God towards evangelization. God has ordained at least four areas which He promises to bless: preaching, praises, missions and prayer. Those four areas are used greatly by God. Now there is a fifth area God has promised to bless and which He uses to support the first four: tithing and stewardship. All is for the sake of making Christ known so that people can know Christ. 

In closing out this post, I point the reader to a great prayer that enables us to know what to pray as we consider Gospel-shaped giving. We read the following in Proverbs 30:7-9 "Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die: 8 Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, 9 That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God." As we've seen today, Gospel-shaped giving entails...

1. God's ordained amount of 10%
2. Inviting of God's blessing
3. Validation in the Bible
4. Exaltation of Jesus