Not For Sale
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Scrutinising the Motive
The good thing, or bad, depending on where one stands, is that the “Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts” (1 Chron. 28:9). We may put words to explain and hide our intentions but this is only working for man. God knows everything from the heart.
Is tithe such a yoke that some believers would want to throw off their shoulders? Will somebody breathe a sigh of relief upon throwing off the obligation to consistently separate the tithe?
Now that Christ endorsed the giving of a widow who gave everything she had and maintaining that she outgave those who gave from abundance, can we match that so that grace can approve our giving to have surpassed our ability? Listen to what grace says about a people who were not so endowed materially yet their giving exceeded the apostles’ expectations.
“And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.”—Luke 21:1-4.
“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.”—2 Corinthians 8:1-5.
It is not clear whether the giving by the Macedonian churches was a kind of fundraising for a targeted operation or a regularised one. Could part of it have been the regular tithe? We don’t know. What the Bible tells us is that they gave themselves to the Lord and then to the servants of God, everything they had followed. It doesn’t matter how much we give ourselves, there are also some parts of the ministry that need our money.
Those who want to give over and above the tithe, fine but how many people would do that? How many people would give above the expectation of the church leaders? It is important to note that whatever we give over and above tithe is an offering, tithe is ten percent.
It is amazing that to some people, the word tithe has become almost offensive. Even if one doesn’t want to call it ‘tithe’, one should make sure that one’s giving is consistently above the ten percent mark. It is likely that some believers view tithe as a form of taxation. Taxation is generally hated. That means believers who take tithing for taxation may tithe grudgingly or find ways to explain it away.
The most important thing that I have to emphasise is that God understands the motive for which some people may not want to commit to give their tithe regularly. There may emerge a number of groups here:
- Those who have sincerely misunderstood the place of the law in the age of the grace;
- There are those who have found grace to be a convenient tool to fight tithe. The bottom line is that tithing is a financial burden they are happy to lay down;
- There are people who get confused in the process of the debate and they choose to award themselves the benefit of doubt, they therefore don’t tithe;
- There are those who are not sure but cannot afford to make a mistake. They tithe because they aren’t comfortable giving themselves the benefit of doubt;
- Lastly, there are people who are sure that tithing still holds. This group tithes faithfully.
We really don’t need a law in order to tithe, we only need instruction. And it is not difficult to see the necessity of the tithe. Those who criticise tithing shouldn’t do so to imply that it is a sin to tithe. Even if it was discontinued by the grace, I don’t think God will count tithe-givers as sinners that must be locked out of heaven. To the contrary, it might be ‘extremely dangerous’ to refuse to tithe. This is because if grace didn’t disqualify tithing, those who don’t tithe qualify to be called robbers robbing God.
There was something that was sin during the dispensation of the law. Did the grace transform or neutralise the sin? In Malachi 3, God had charged the children of Jacob that they were robbing Him by not giving their tithe and offering. Robbery is sin. Even if the grace has bought us so that we have become God’s own possession, separation of functions and resources must still apply. We may not appropriate certain things simply because we belong to God. If it was sin then, it is still sin today.
According to Malachi 3:10, the reason God commanded that tithe be brought into the storehouse was to make meat available in God’s house. The question is: Did the grace render the need for meat irrelevant? Tithe was the main source of food for the priests. Even today, there are people doing the work of God and they rely on tithes to get their food.
God understands the motive. A good steward doesn’t award himself the benefits of doubt. If the grace brought freedom from the law, the same freedom needs the law to regulate it and define exceptions. As I had noted elsewhere, it boils down to what kind of law was done away with, for there is a law that endures forever.
Reflections and Questions to Ponder
1. What is the most important thing you have learnt in this chapter?
2. Have you ever had the custody of something that belongs to somebody?
a) How did you take care of it? If it is something you were allowed to use for the time being, how did it feel when the owner came for it?
b) Did you wish the person allowed you to keep it for good?
3. I wondered by asking the following question about Abel: ‘If Abel knew that he would be killed for offering his best to God, would he still have given what he gave?’
May I now ask you the same question: If you knew that you would be killed for offering your best to God, would you still give it?
4. I made the statement that it is anathema to make ‘strange’ offerings before the Lord.
a) What, in your estimation, can constitute a strange offering?
b) We live in the dispensation of the grace, does this mean we can withhold our offerings or give ‘whatever’ we like? How does Malachi 1:8 apply for today—in other words what are the equivalents of lame offerings?
5. If the work of God is left to the haphazard giving by the so-called “Grace Giving,” what are some of the likely things to happen?
6. Sometimes we ask God for silver and gold in order to do His work. When we get it, we don’t release it. In what ways can we stay alert so that we don’t use God’s money only to return to Him?
7. In what ways can you help a minister who seems to divert the finances to other things?
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