Is God interested in how we handle our money? Why not! Our attitude to money governs every part of our lives.
In some Christian circles, NT believers are taught that tithing is our obligation to God. Others teach that our giving must be Spirit-directed, and yet others repudiate tithing as part of the “Law” which was “done away with” in Christ.
Stewardship is more than about money and possessions. Our money problems are about our attitude to life. When we choose God’s plan, we break the cycle of greed in our lives and create financial margin for now and later. God wants to teach us how to be generous. The best way to learn is to give.
Everyone had certain financial obligations in Israel which, according to the Old Testament, fell into four categories:
1. The priests who served in the temple,
2. The storehouse, ie, the Levites who served in and maintained the temple,
3. The family,
4. The poor, the widow, the orphan and the alien.
The Old Testament Law required a “terumah” offering and 3 tithes which made up 21.02% of their income. God’s purpose was to teach them to be generous and to create a margin of safety around their finances so that they would always have enough for emergencies.
There are principles in His financial plan which we need to understand.
1. Approximately 1/40 of the harvest, which matured first, belonged to God and was given to Him as a “wave offering”, then to the priests for them and their families; Deuteronomy 18:3-5
For the firstfruits of the harvest and the firstborn of the flocks and herds to become an offering (a “terumah”) it had to be:
1. Lifted up and presented to God as a wave/heave offering - Numbers 18:19
2. Placed in the hands of the priest - Deuteronomy 18:3-5
The “terumah” offering has implications for understanding God’s plan of salvation
Jesus died as a sin offering (Romans 8:3) and a “terumah” offering
1. He was lifted up - John 12:32 “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself.”
2. He placed His spirit into the hands of His Father - Luke 23:46 “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’”
What was true of Jesus is true of us - 1 Cor 15:20-23, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who gave fallen asleep.... But each in his own turn: Christ the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.”
Just as the terumah offering sanctified the rest of the harvest, Jesus, our terumah, guarantees the resurrection of all believers.
There are three words for tithe in Hebrew and only one in English, hence the confusion.
2. Maaser rishon - First tithe - 1/10 of our income after terumah - God’s portion which is given to the church - Leviticus 27:30.
3. Maaser sheni - Second tithe - 1/10 after terumah, first tithe and taxes - our portion to save for ourselves - Deuteronomy 14:22-26
4. Maaser ani - Third tithe - every third month our second tithe is given to take care of strangers, widows, orphans and aliens - Deuteronomy 14:28
Principle 1 - God teaches us to live in a circle on a square, ie, living on approximately 78.98% of our income.
Leviticus 19:9,10; “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.....Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.”
The balance, 21.02%, is what we give to God or save for our descendants.
Principle 2 - God uses our generosity to break our cycle of greed, so that we can take care of our spiritual authority, the poor, and ourselves and our offspring for the future.
Principle 3 - Our level of spirituality and our future in God’s kingdom are related to the way we steward our possessions.
Luke 16:10 -12: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? and if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”
Principle 4 - The terumah offering sanctifies everything we do.
Rom 11:16: - “If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.”
Principle 5 - God’s way of doing money in the Old Testament is not about Law but about wisdom, teaching us how to be generous as well as taking care of those for whom we are responsible.
When we follow God’s financial plan:
We honour Him by giving back to Him what is His;
We follow God’s plan for taking care of those for whom we are responsible, and creating a financial safety margin for emergencies.