“Financing God’s Kingdom”
7“From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes, and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed Thee?’ In tithes and offerings. 9“You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 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. 11“Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts. 12“And all the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts.”
John Bunyan once wrote, “There was a man, some called him mad; the more he gave, the more he had.” How much should you give? What principles should guide you in your giving? When we face deficits from time to time how should we respond? I heard another saying that is also packed with wisdom: When your out-go exeeds your in-come, your up-keep will be your down-fall. So what do we do when it looks like our out-go is exceeding our in-come? 1) Option One: Panic and beat the sheep or shear the sheep? Or 2) Option Two: we humbly accept that this is what God has given us and so we must adjust our budget to stay in line with our resources, or 3) Option Three: Pray and earnestly seek the Lord to pour out His riches upon us, and maybe we will be moved to give more generously. Or both of options two and three.
You hear statements like that when it comes to giving in the Church of Jesus Christ, but little is said about how much should be given. “Just pray and God will show you.” On the other hand, you see all kinds of gimmicks being employed by churches in order to raise money – bazaars, bake sales, barbecues and bingo! How has God ordained for His Kingdom to be financed?
The answer is found in our text – Malachi 3:7-12. Here the Lord sets before us some guiding principles for giving: 1) The FIRST GUIDING PRINCIPLE: Tithes, 2) The SECOND GUIDING PRINCIPLE: Offerings
Have you ever wondered just how much you should give to the Lord’s work? Well, I think I could probably give about $10/week. What we’ll do is pay all our bills, and then if we have anything left over, we’ll give some of it. What did God require of Israel for the purpose of financing the Kingdom of God? Malachi 3:8, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me, but you say, how have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings.” What is the Tithe? The word “tithe” literally means “tenth.” That is, God claimed as His own 1/10 of all their produce, of all their income – the increase of their labors.
Leviticus 27:30-32 30‘Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord. 31‘If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it. 32‘And for every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord.”
Festival Tithe – Deuteronomy 14:22-27. Here the Israelites were to set apart a tithe for a special season of rejoicing before the Lord! This was to promote rest and the enjoyment of living under the blessings of the Lord. And then there was another tithe which some have called the…
Poor Tithe – Deuteronomy 14:28-29
Many estimate that the requirement of God for the financing of His kingdom in Israel was perhaps as much as 23 1/3% per year. That sounds high, but that took care of all of the functions of the nation of Israel, both civil and ecclesiastical; both the needs of the state and the church.
The Festival Tithe was part and parcel of the ceremonies which were shadows of the reality of Christ! But there is a principle to be maintained in terms of rejoicing before the Lord as a family. A vacation possibly.
The Poor Tithe was for the purpose of caring for those in need. This, the Church ought to pursue through its diaconal ministries.
The Yearly Tithe was paid to the Levites for the purpose of maintaining the worship and education of God’s people.
So what does God require of us? We might say, as a governing principle, a minimum, 10% of your produce or income. But some might ask, “Why do I have to give 10% when I don’t make as much as John Doe?” God’s tithing principle is fair. Every one uses the same guideline.
Some have wondered if the tithing principle is still applicable to us, after all we live in the New Testament era. I thought we just gave from our hearts as we feel led by the Spirit. But I must remind you! The Lord does not lead you but according to the truth principles of His word. The Psalmist says, “Oh how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day…Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119: 97, 105) What do we see in the Word of God concerning the tithe – the whole counsel of God – Old and New Testament. Is the tithe still binding? Should it yet be our FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLE when it comes to giving?
Tithing was practiced by God’s people even before the law was given. Abraham tithed to Melchizedek – Genesis 14:18-2
Jacob pledged to tithe unto the Lord – Genesis 28:18-22
Tithing was incorporated into the law when it was given. Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:20-21; Deuteronomy 14:22
22“You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year.”
Tithing was never abrogated by Jesus. In fact, He affirmed it. Jesus statement: Matthew 23:23, “…these ought ye to have done and not to leave the other undone.”
Once I visited with a man who had visited this church and as he recounted his past association with various churches he remarked about one church, “I couldn’t go to that church, its budget is too big!” I wondered, “How big should the budget of the church be? What standard should we apply? How could we determine that? Perhaps the answer should be something like this: at least a tithe of the combined incomes of the membership.
What was the consequence for God’s People for not tithing? Jesus said, “…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) The tithe belongs to God! We must render unto God what belongs to Him! If we do not, then we fail to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over us in one very practical aspect of our lives: our wealth. Among other things, the observing the Sabbath Day is a recognition of God’s sovereignty over your time, and observing the tithe principle is a recognition of God’s sovereignty over your wealth. Who gives you the power and skill to make wealth? It is the Lord Himself (Deuteronomy 8:18). So when we do not give, we are in some sense denying God’s sovereignty over us. So Malachi asks the Israelites in Malachi 3:8, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings.”
In a sense you have not begun to give unto the Lord until you at least follow this FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLE of the tithe. It could be argued that the tithe is what God requires and that “giving” is above and beyond the tithe!
Now secondly, we consider the giving opportunity: Offerings. If tithing is the foundational principle, then offerings are a secondary and complementary principle of giving. Here is an opportunity that we have to express our deep love and devotion unto our God! When we tithe, we have acknowledged that He is our Sovereign Lord and that all we have comes from Him. When we give an offering above the tithe, we are expressing our devotion and love for Him as our Heavenly Father.
To some degree the depth and strength of our love for God is in some measure demonstrated in our giving to the Lord! Jesus taught in Matthew 6:19-21 that men reveal that which really captivates their devotion by where they invest their wealth. 19“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
What value do put on the work of Christ’s Kingdom through the ministry of His Church? The Scripture warns us of the dangers of pursuing wealth for wealth’s sake – I Timothy 6:9 9“But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.” Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”
The apostle Paul gives instruction in I Timothy 6:17-19 to those who are rich. 17Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.”
What are the consequences of failing to give offerings unto your Lord? According to Malachi 3:8, God is robbed, and we are robbing ourselves – robbing ourselves of the joy that would be ours in blessings out-poured upon us! Read, Malachi 3:10 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.”
Now I know that in some way this promise is peculiarly applicable to Israel as God’s Covenant Nation. As they obeyed Him, God blessed their labors, their farming operations, their crops and their livestock. But there is a principle here. As someone once said, “You cannot out-give God!”
And Jesus said, (Luke 6:38) “Give and it will be given to you; good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return.”
The guiding principles ordained by God for financing the advance of His kingdom (the Church) are these two: tithes and offerings. When God’s people are so faithful, the Church is blessed and the Kingdom is advanced to His glory! When they are not faithful, the Church is not blessed and the Kingdom is stagnant!
What happens when God’s people catch a vision for the building of His kingdom? If their vision is accompanied by obedience to tithes and offerings, some fantastic things will happen!
Exodus 36:1-7, The tabernacle was to be built, but first, the materials were to be gathered. The people captivated by the vision of the Kingdom advancing and gave freely from their hearts!!! And Moses had to ask them to stop giving! Can you imagine that? We have some exciting goals before us: diaconal ministries, school, counseling ministry, missionaries around the world, church planting, etc. All of this must be financed. Where will it come from: tithes and offerings.
Now what could motivate you and me to give? I remember reading Matthew Henry’s comments in one of his commentaries. There different kinds of giving. There is the giving of the flint which when one strikes it, it gives forth a spark. There is the giving of an orange which when one squeezes it, it gives for juice. And there is the giving of a flower, which when exposed to the warmth of the sun, opens up and gives forth a wonderful fragrance. May God so warm our hearts when exposed to warmth of the love of the Son of God, that our hearts will open up freely and give unto Him who has so freely given unto us. John 3:16