To Tithe or not to Tithe …
…that is the question?
Much has been written and many sermons have been preached over the years on the subject of “tithing” which traditionally has been understood as the giving of a tenth part of ones material prosperity or monetary income back to the Lord. My Sermon today entitled “To Tithe or not to Tithe – that is the question?” is an attempt to focus the mind and the spirit
on Gods word and not on church traditions.
The whole subject of “tithing” originates in the Old Testament Law as given through Moses and recorded for us in the books of Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy. God says “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S: it is holy unto the LORD”.
Lev 27:30 and again “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Mal 3:10. and so on.
There are indeed numerous old testament scriptures which lay down this principle of giving God the tenth, and indeed added to this was the practice of “first-fruits” Giving God the first and the best, and giving him the first profit, and what we commonly think of as “store-house” tithing. (bringing all of the tenth to Gods house) Of course while the law shows that the tenth belongs to God, it also demanded an offering from that which the law considered belonged to the individual. Hence the term “tithes and offerings” You gave God what was His, (the tithe) and you gave to God from what was yours (the offering).
This principle and practice of “tithing” is still recognised and respected within the Jewish culture, tradition and religion to this day; and it is from these Hebrew Scriptures that the Church nowadays takes its lead.
Many of us in the Church (in our various denominational camps) grew up with this tradition and teaching of “tithing” and it has been a real spiritual blessing to us all. I remember preaching a sermon on this same topic many years ago, and on that occasion, I brought a bag of 10 potatoes into the pulpit with me, and challenged the congregation listening me on that day with the words “how could you not give God 1, when you have 9 left over” The visual effect of that sack of potatoes seemed to do the trick – for many signed up to “tithing” from that day onwards.
Others have also endorsed this teaching with the illustration of “sowing and reaping”. In other words, teaching the church that by the measure you sow in tithes and offerings, you will receive from God in harvest and blessings. Personally, I don’t hold to this kind of teaching for it implies a “give to get” theology which is not true to the Scriptures of both Old and New testaments.
Giving to Get should never be our motivation.
Now my Sermon today asks the question “to Tithe or not to Tithe” and it is to this question that we need to focus. Remember it is my job as a Preacher of the Word, to give you the WORD unadulterated, unaltered, and unblemished by tradition or theology. The first thing I need to say is that there is nothing wrong, or unscriptural about “tithing” the old testament way – and whatever we give to God “even a cup of cold water given to a thirsty one in his name” will never go without His notice or reward. Jesus said so in Matthew 10:42
But it seems strange to me, that Jesus himself never endorsed the principle, never taught his disciples to tithe, and that the early Church and none of the apostle writers ever appeared to practice or preach tithing? Does that not seem strange to you?
Only once did Jesus himself refer to tithing and that in condemnation of those hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees who he said were so legalistically minded that they were as straining a “flea” out of their drink and swallowing a “camel”?
Yet many of us still preach “tithing” from our Pulpits year in and year out. How easy it is to be caught up in tradition, even in what seems like good tradition. But just because a thing has been in place for a long time, does not necessary mean that it is in the right place. Just because a lie may be circulated for centuries, does not eventually make the lie become truth.
Christians are expected to live by the TRUTH of the word.
The point I am making is that the “truth” as taught by Jesus himself, and endorsed by the practice of the early Church in the book of Acts, and underscored by the apostolic writers, is a truth that for some has become “a bitter pill” or a “step too far” or a “thorn in the flesh” ? Because instead of Jesus teaching that God owns a tenth, Jesus taught us that GOD OWNS IT ALL! (and that for some, is a pill too hard to swallow)
Now I can’t just say these things without showing you and proving to you that this in indeed the truth of Gods word. Let us look for a moment at how the first Church members behaved themselves and how they committed themselves to God. Turn with me if you will to the book of the Acts of the Apostles and Chapter 2, and we will break in if we may at verse 41….
Lets read … Acts 2:41-47
(41) Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
(42) And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
(43) And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
(44) And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
(45) And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
(46) And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
(47) Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
So here we see the early Christians selling what belonged to them to share with those in need, they had a fraternity, a brotherhood a unity that is unlikely, uncommon and unheard of – today. God blesses this kind of unity, in fact it is here that
“he commands the blessing”.
Then turn to Acts Chapter 4, and to verse 32
(32) And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
(33) And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon
(34) Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses, sold them,
and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
(35) And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
So here we see the early Christians take a further step … here we see them letting go of those things that they called “their own” and giving all, including their lands and houses to the apostles for the good and glory of the Church.
And in the next Chapter, 5, we read the tragic story of
Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, who sold a possession, and
kept back part of the price for themselves in an attempt to deceive both God and his Church; and God took the breath
of life from them as a consequence. Take care that you are
not trying to fool God nor His people.
So I am trying to show you or teach you today, is that
far from God wanting your tithe, your tenth, God wants your ALL. That means everything you are, everything you have, and everything you hope to be … God wants to own YOU completely, utterly and without any reservation. Some of us are happy to give God our tenth, give God our Sundays, give God our talents, give God our voices, and so on, but when it comes to giving God our Bank Accounts, our Houses or our Farms of Land, our Businesses, or our Profits, our Investments or our Pensions then we are likely to raise all kinds of arguments and objections. But I repeat, God wants you all – all that you are and all you have. This is what LORDSHIP really means, and one does not surrender to his Lordship without cost. This is why Jesus could say that: ” Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”.
Surrendering to His Lordship is not just about His name, but it
is all about His nature. Many are happy to be Christian in name, but are not Christian in nature. They call themselves Christians, but do not live the Christians life, for in order to live the life you must be born with the nature. A dog lives a dogs life because it was born with a dogs nature. If you have been truly born again into Gods family you will have been born into a new nature a new way of life; you’ve been given the nature of Jesus. Do YOU have this new nature?
You see the nature of Jesus is one of total surrender
and total sacrifice! As I taught you a few weeks ago in this programme, even the Glory which Jesus had with the Father from the beginning, he has given it away to us his disciples and followers. John 17:22 Jesus life was all about giving, and if your life is all about getting then you are no disciple of his! Jesus gave his ALL so that we might give our ALL. Yet it is one thing to sing “All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give…” and quite another thing to do it! Have you surrendered your all to Jesus? Unless and until you do, you will not receive or experience the joy of walking and living
in the Divine nature that is his.
So then am I asking you to stop “tithing”? Am I asking you to sell up and give it all away? NO, I am not asking you to do or cease to do anything, but God is asking you for your obedience and for your all. Did you know that failing to surrender everything to God, is like smacking Him in the face? It is the sin of Ananias and Sapphira. It is like saying to God that you are not confident in His ability to care for you, so you must first of all take care of yourself and your own needs. For that very thing Gods judgement fell
(as an example) on Ananias and Sapphira.
Of course God wants us to be good stewards of everything he lends to us, but this does not mean that we “lay much goods in store for ourselves for many years” while the hungry live on our doorstep. There are people living in this town living not far from you… without sufficient to buy proper nourishing food for their children, and unable to source any benefits, while there are others with “more than enough and to spare”?
My heart is broken by such things and I weep to God my Saviour over that, and I am certain that God weeps too. James the Apostle writes:
“And (if) one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? James 2:16
And John the Apostle in his letters writes
“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” 1 John 3:17
What hypocrisy to lift up the name of Jesus in our fine ornately
fashioned Churches and leave our fellow human beings living
in cardboard city. God have mercy on us all. If God took Ananias and Sapphira away from their selfish ambitions –
He may take you and I away also. God does not change.
“These things are written for our example” Judges 1:7
If you cannot get down on your knees today with your investment port-folio and your bank account books on the floor in front of you and honest say “Lord this is all yours”
then you lie, you lie, when you call him LORD! And that goes for every other possession you own, or that bears your name. I can see God bringing his Church back to the book of the Acts, and back to the way He designed her, so that she may be “without spot or wrinkle or any such (worldly) thing”. And if that does not gladden your heart and fill you with joy, then you are none of his, you are only a Christian by name, and not a Christian by nature. God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, … love, real love, the love that is the very nature of Jesus, compels us to give, and if we are not always giving, then we are not always walking in that love or in that life-style. If you are still begrudgingly parting with your tithe or your few pounds or euros, then you know nothing of the love of Jesus or the nature of God. If you have to think about it before you give it, then you do not have the heart that God wants for you: His Heart!
NOW THIS FINAL WORD.
So what was it that Jesus taught us about how to give?
The classic illustration he used was that of the widow who gave her pennies secretly into the treasury. The story known as
“the widows mite” from Mark 12 & Luke 21. Notice that she gave TWO mites, when she could have easily and sacrificially have given ONE. Jesus said, “She has given her ALL”.
If you and I were to give God HALF of everything we own,
it would hurt and hurt a great deal. That poor widow,
(that’s what Jesus called her) gave her everything, her ALL.
If we are not giving to God to the place where it “hurts”
where it “costs” then we have not yet understood what Jesus was teaching. When was the last time you really “felt the pinch” by what you gave away for Gods Glory and for His Kingdom? When was the last time you did without yourself, so that another could have the blessing and the benefit?
When did you empty your cupboards so that you could fill someone else’s? When did you last go hungry, so that a starving child could eat? Its not the name Christian that will get the job done, its the nature, working in us and through us …. may God help us.
Begin today with the understanding that you are only a steward of all you have, you should never think of yourself as the owner.
God is the owner, he has loaned it to you to manage for him.
Even though the bank account, the car, the house, or everything else you may have is in your name, God is the one who gave you the ability to prosper. Deuteronomy 8:18 says,
“But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.”
There are so many good things that begin to happen when you understand that God is your source and that you are simply a
steward of the things He has entrusted to you. You’re a channel through which he wants to flow his blessing. When you surrender all to Him, you’re not giving up anything;
you’re actually opening the door to greater blessing from God. And it will bring with it a sense of peace – knowing that now the Master is in control of it – and that He is responsible for you. Your financial security does not depend upon you. Christians must not let life become a set of rules, – tithing, praying, reading, working and witnessing, but rather the Christians life should be a response to a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Remember, you may give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. God Bless You.