Pastor's Corner

Give like you are a Christian

Christians are the most generous people around.

Not every Christian always, but all Christians really should be. The basis of being a Christian is the incredible gift of Jesus. Because Christians have received so much, we give much.

God gave Jesus, his Son, to die in the place of sinful rebels like you and me. In other words, we who deserve to drink the full cup of God’s eternal wrath received an amazing reprieve — Jesus drank the cup instead of us. Even though he never sinned one time, God punished Jesus on the cross as if he had committed all of our sins. Then he raised him from the dead so that he could offer us the gift of forgiveness.

Because we have received that incredible gift, we give.

At the end of one of the longest sections of the Bible about giving, II Corinthians 8-9, Paul bursts out with this line: Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (II Corinthians 9:15). What could motivate the poor Christians of Macedonia to give out of their poverty to help the even poorer saints in Jerusalem? The gift of Jesus.

Some Christians believe that they are required by God to give their churches 10 percent of their income, which is commonly known as a tithe. It is true that the tithe was commanded of the Jews in the Old Testament. The prophet Malachi goes so far as to call out non-tithers for stealing from God.

“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:8-10).

Did you know that there were actually three different tithes required of all Israelites in the Old Testament?

There was a tithe to support the work of the Lord (Lev. 27:30-33); another annual festival tithe (Dt. 14:22-27); a third tithe came only once every three years to support the poor, kind of like giving to charity except it was mandatory (Dt. 14:28, 29).

Basically, the Jews paid 23.3 percdent in tithes each year in the Old Testament era.

Have you ever wondered why tithing is barely mentioned in the New Testament? Basically, it only comes up in the Gospels as Israel is still functioning under the Old Covenant, and in the book of Hebrews looking back to the Old Testament. It isn’t really commanded of New Testament Christians at all.

Why is that?

Tithing isn’t commanded for Christians because it doesn’t need to be. All Christians love Jesus who gave everything to us. As the beneficiaries of this greatest possible gift, Jesus just tells his followers to give, and he assumes we will do it in huge ways. Everyone in the New Covenant is forgiven, loves the Lord, is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and has God’s laws written on his heart — internal motivation to obey.

Christians don’t need a legal hammer, they just need to be unleashed to give.

Jesus uses absolute language to his followers to make his point: give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you (Luke 6:38).

Just give it all away! Everything. To the poor. To needy churches. To everyone who asks anything from you.

Other places in the Bible balance out Jesus’ absolute statements, showing us God has other financial expectations of his children than to just give all of our money away. He tells us to work to support ourselves (I Thes. 4:11, 12) and other family members (I Tim. 5:8). He indicates there is a place for saving up for special gifts (I Cor. 16:1, 2). Proverbs speaks of the wisdom of saving money for the future (Prov. 6:6-11). And we are even allowed to enjoy some stuff of this life for God’s glory (I Tim. 4:1-5, 6:17).

Plus, what would be the point of some having the spiritual gift of giving, if all Christians were literally supposed to give everything they owned away (Rom. 12:8)?

The big danger for Christians today, however, is to let the excessive materialism of the world around us tempt us to allow our correct biblical responsibilities to swallow up Jesus’ general rule for his people — Give. In other words, our remaining sins of greed and covetousness try to tell us to get all we can and can all we get.

But God is our Lord and our provider. He expects us to use the money he is trusting us with for his kingdom. He isn’t looking for the precious people that he gave his own Son for to get grumpy on Sunday as they pull out calculators and scrape off 10 percent for their churches.

Tithing was training wheels for Jewish unbelievers. Christians are to give hugely out of the overflow of their joy for Jesus’ inexpressible gift.

Do you believe this? Is your giving joyful, motivated by Jesus’ great gift to you?

When you go to church tomorrow, give like you are a Christian.

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