“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try 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 such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,’ says the Lord of hosts; 12 ‘And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
Many people, even God’s people, don’t understand the intimacy of God’s interest in and with our lives. From the very beginning, God has been seeking intimate and close relations with the people He created. God is interested in every aspect of your life, including your finances. This may be shocking to some of us, but money is the one thing that we are so secretive about. We don’t talk about how much each other makes, we don’t ask what one’s hourly wages are, and many spend an inordinate amount of money appearing not to be poor.
I work in the Car Sales business in my secular job, and I encounter people who are what we call car-poor. They have bought way more car than they need, and they find themselves not able to afford the payments, the insurance, and the gas. In southern Ontario where I live, more and more people are becoming house-poor. The housing prices in the Toronto and surrounding areas are simply out of reach for most people, even with both mom and dad working.
We are going to talk today about money and the relationship it has with us and God. How we treat money says a lot about our relationship with the Lord. Jesus spoke about money often: the rich man and Lazarus; the rich farmer with the bigger barns who died and lost his soul; money (mammon) should not be our God. Money is there to serve us and the Kingdom of God. You are a child of God, not the other way around. Even Jesus needed money for His earthly ministry. In Luke 8: 1-3, we find these verses,
“Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.”
God does not hate money. God does not require us all to live as monks, completely destitute of money and things. That is not the case. There were many wealthy men and women in the New Testament church as you read through the book of Acts. But our relationship to money is what is important. That relationship is best shown by who we pay first and how we pay.
We are going to discuss the controversial doctrine of tithing here; some will be upset, and that is okay. But it is in the Bible, it is pre-law, and it is still in effect today as the main demonstration of a proper relationship to money. I never heard of anyone disagreeing with tithing until I came to North America. Even among what I call conservative Bible teachers, there is division on this. A while ago, I read that the average attendee of a service gives about $20.
So, if you walk into a church on Sunday morning, they will receive on average $20 in the offering for each person there. Now, I pastor a church that is small, and we do way better than that. Our people more than tithe on many occasions. But one can see that there are many people in the local church that made more than $200 that previous week. We are in a financial struggle in North America; many churches are simply not getting what they should in money coming in to do the work. But we digress. Let us start at the beginning.
- The First Tithe, Genesis 14: 18-20
The very first time that we see the act of tithing is in this chapter. Abraham, called Abram at the time, wages a war to rescue Lot, his nephew. The Lord blesses him with a victory, and when he returns, he is met by a man named Melchizedek. He is the King of Salem (later to be called Jerusalem), and he is called the High Priest of the Most-High God. In Hebrews 7, a more accurate description of this Melchizedek is made; he is indeed the King of Salem, also the King of Peace, and he is King of Righteousness. He has neither father nor mother and neither beginning nor end. And, as great as Abraham was as the father of the Jews, he paid a tithe to this man. This was none other than Jesus, a Christophany, in the Old Testament.
Abraham was rich, to begin with. He had many servants and a lot of livestock. He had enough servants to mount a formidable attack against kingdoms and win. Yes, the Lord was with him, but he had the resources to wage war from the number of servants in his household. He was a wealthy man. When he returned from the victory, before he did anything else, he paid a tithe to the King of Salem. He paid God, in the form of Jesus, a tithe. By the way, Jesus is still the King of Salem and the High Priest of the Most-High God; the book of Hebrews lays that out for us.
Tithing, then, was not a part of the Old Testament covenant; it was established by Abraham as part of honoring God when He gives you more. The OT law did not exist for hundreds of years later, and so this principle has not been put aside because we are under a new covenant. In our time, in the New Testament era that we live in, the only authorized agency of the Lord is the New Testament church. When we come together, we should tithe to the Lord through her. Revelation 1-3 clearly establishes that the Lord is the Head of every true NT church; as such, you are paying to Him as Abraham did.
- The First Fruits, Leviticus 23:10
Hundreds of years later, the Jews crossed the Wilderness, leaving Egypt and traveling to the Promised Land, and God gave them the Law. In the Law, there is a statement about the ‘first fruits.’ In Leviticus 23:10, we see that the Jews are commanded to bring a sheaf of the first fruit of their crops to the Lord as a thank you to the Lord for prospering them with their crops. They were required to bring the first fruit of the sheaves to the city of Jerusalem and eat them before the Lord. They were not to be sold or consumed in any other way.
In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Jesus is called the ‘First Fruits’ of the resurrection. He resurrected, and immediately the dead began to resurrect as well. If you read Matthew 27:53, you will see that the effects of Jesus’ resurrection were immediate.
“and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”
The feast of First Fruits was a celebration of the resurrection before anyone knew there was going to be a resurrection. But the principle that the Lord gets the first fruits of your increase was established. Yes, this is a part of the Law, but it is also a picture of the life of Jesus at His first coming. The Passover was His sacrificial death, the feast of Unleavened Bread pictures Jesus taking away the sins of the world, and then the feast of Firsts Fruits pictures His resurrection. The next feast was Pentecost, some 50 days later. The idea that we should give to God first when we are prospered is established in Abraham and then in the book of Leviticus. In the OT era, the Levites collected the tithe and the first fruits, and they tithed from that as well. In Deuteronomy 14:28, there is even a tithe for the poor.
If more of our people honestly tithed to the local churches and the churches managed this money well, we could help a lot of poor people, and maybe God would get the glory and not the government for helping the poor. We will not get rid of the poor; Jesus told us that. But it is the responsibility of the Lord’s people to help the poor. We have abdicated this responsibility to the government, and we are paying for it.
There are many other kinds of giving to the Lord in the OT. In Exodus 30: 11-16, we have the Temple Tax; this was still in effect in Jesus’ day, and we can read that in Matthew 17:24-27 and 22:15-22. Each male over 20 years old was required to pay half a shekel weighed in silver or gold. The amount was still the same in Jesus’ day but now paid using drachmas. No matter one’s financial status, rich or poor, if you were 20 years old or older and a man, you paid the Temple Tax.
A fun fact: in Matthew 17: 24-27, Jesus provides money for two, Peter and himself, to pay the Temple Tax. This means, as Jesus followed the Law perfectly, that only he and Peter were 20 years and older. The idea of these old and bearded men as the apostles needs to be questioned. It would appear that Jesus was followed by young men, a lot of them.
- The First Mistake, Malachi 3:8
We are the most arrogant people. We tend to forget the hand that feeds us, and this is what was happening here in Jerusalem in the time of Malachi. The people were not tithing, not giving the Temple Tax, and not giving the first fruits, not remembering the call to bring things into the storehouse. They were robbing God. This never goes well. One ends up cheating himself. God does not require us to give as if He is in need. He requires us to give as a part of worship and gratitude.
There are many charlatans on our airwaves that pitch the idea of giving to them as the way for the Lord to bless you. They have all these schemes allegedly from God, that if you will give $77 on the 7th day at the 7th hour, God will bless you 7-fold, or some other allegedly Biblical numerical equation that they got from God to get your money now. Oh my, what hogwash! Actually, that is an insult to hogwash. Do you understand that if they truly believed that, they would send you money, and God would bless them? We have this promise from God that He will provide for us all that we need. He never promises to make us rich. What He promises is to provide what we need each day.
In the book of Acts 4-5, we see that the people in the NT church there in Jerusalem did not consider their possessions to be their own, but there for the service of the Lord. Even in the incident with Ananias and Saphira, we learn that they were free to give all or a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the land; they just could not lie about it and make themselves look to be giving more than they did. Paul tells us that each man should give according to as he has set in his heart (see 2 Corinthians 9:7) and that we are to give cheerfully; the word means hilariously. We are not to bring an offering to the Lord begrudgingly.
The principle of the tithe began with Abraham, and it has not been abolished by any means in the NT era. But we are also to be way more generous than we are in many cases. We should give so as to feed the poor, and we should give so as to maintain the facility if we have one, or the minister, and Paul tells us that ministers should live off the Gospel. They should be paid like the OT Levites were. In this passage today, God lays out two kinds of offering: tithes and offerings. We should seek to do both, not to get rich or to have God make us rich; that is not the motive. Abraham was already rich.
Rather, we tithe and give because He dealt abundantly with us, and whatever we have is already more than we deserve. I don’t know about you, but I can testify that God has provided for me and my family, “pressed down, shaken and over flowing.” It is our privilege to tithe and give offerings. It is the least we can do after all God has done and shown to us. All that we have is from His gracious and generous hand. We want to be gracious and generous as well, and to Him be the glory.
If you are not regularly giving to your local Bible-preaching NT church, then you should begin. Start with the tithe, which is 10% of what God gives you on your paycheck. Yes, I know the government takes taxes up front; you have no control over that. So, deal with what you can; when you get a paycheck, pay God first. Then do what needs to be done with the rest.
Will I get rich? No, I cannot answer that, and the Bible never promises that. But God promises to supply all your needs, and that is as far as anyone can promise.
God blesses those who honor Him with their finances; God blesses those that put Him in their finances. Sometimes, God does not give you more, but what you have after giving to Him goes further. Cars may last longer, clothes may last longer, and on we can go. Give to God and to His work; give to His people and invest in the eternal kingdom. The money you have came from God; He let you have a job, allowed you to be healthy enough to attend the job, and allows the company to be profitable enough to pay you. Put Him first in your finances, and our churches will stop struggling financially, and we can expand the kingdom. No, a man cannot rob God, but he sure cheats himself when he does not put God first in his finances.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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