Monday, July 16, 2012

My First, My Last, My All

First, I was going to make this a 3 part series but I just couldn't do it.  I didn't want to hold off on any parts in fear you may not come back and finish, leaving you with only part of the truth.  So forgive me but this is long.  :)  My God pressed upon me to share and so share I have done.  Grab your coffee or water and let yourself see what the Lord has for you today.

Our pastor, Pastor Jon Cobler, spent about 3 weeks talking about that thing that most people hate to hear about the most in church, money and tithing.  Most of us when we hear a preacher on TV or in the pulpit tend to tune out when it comes to hearing about “our money” and what we are supposed to do with it, in particular, tithing.

I must admit that there were times in my early years of marriage that I didn't want to hear those sermons either.  They were always labeled with "supposed to" statements and comments riddled with guilt. As if I didn’t already feel guilty enough!  We may not remember the exact words used but we sure remember how they made us feel.  And that impression can surely sower a person to the concept of tithing very quickly. 

I have always wanted to know how the tithe is truly to be looked at since there is a difference between the Old Testament Covenant & Law and New Testament Covenant & Grace.  I am not happy to just be spoon fed and I love to dig deeper and find the truth in the midst of all the laws put upon us by modern day Pharisees.  So this study was perfect.  Of course a lot of what I will be sharing with you is revelation shared by my pastor, but it wasn’t shared by me until I spent the last couple weeks going over every verse he gave us as well as reading much more on the subject that I came to the conclusions I am sharing with you now.  And the conclusion I have come to is that I am to give Him my First, my Last and my All.  Let me explain.

I have been a faithful tither for many years but what does it really mean?  Is my idea of faithful the same as the Lord’s?  Are my reasons for tithing the right reasons?  God clearly tells to us to give with a cheerful heart. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  Then there are these questions… Do you tithe before taxes, after?  Do you tithe on money you make on tax returns, interest earned?  You know… these are all the questions that will help you to justify keeping more of "YOUR" money and give God less.  How silly considering that all we have is only given to us because it was HIS to give to us in the first place.  We wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for His grace, mercy and love.  He is surely the true Cheerful Giver.

So for me it was wonderful that Pastor Jon really went deep into Old & New Testament and showed us a more meaningful and Godly way to look at tithing.  Let’s look at some things I learned and I pray that it will touch you the way it touched me.  First we will look at the Old Testament then the New Testament. 

OLD TESTAMENT (Testament means Covenant)

Definition of the Biblical word Covenant: 
  • The conditional promises made to humanity by God, as revealed in Scripture.
  • The agreement between God and the ancient Israelites, in which God promised to protect them if they kept his law and were faithful to Him.
In the Old Testament according to the promises made by God to man, men were to give their first-fruits and at the end of a harvest give 1/10th (or a tithe) of the full amount that they made.   

First-Fruits ~   At the time most people were either farmers or shepherds or a mix of both.  For farmers it meant the first crop that was harvested went directly to the Lord.  For shepherds it meant that the first born was given as a tithe. 

The Tithe ~  For the tithe, at the end of a harvest for the farmer they would gather all they harvested and give 1/10th of that harvest over to the Lord.  For the Shepherd it was the same, whatever they owned at the end of the year they gave 1/10th of their livestock.

The Tithe was put in place to protect God's people from their own greed.  By worshiping the Lord with our tithes then we are keeping God central, instead of our things.  Think about it, how many of us put our things first?  Would we give up our stuff for HIM?  Would you give up your big screen TV to feed children that are homeless?  God may not be asking you to, but if He was, would you?  Or do you worship those things more than you worship God?

The tithe was also to pay for the ministry of the priests and Levites (Numbers 18:21).  They continually did the work of the Lord and therefore could not work outside of the ministry of the Lord to make money.  This helped them do what the Lord asked as well as sustained them.  It was also used for celebrations through specific feasts (Deuteronomy 16:16-1717). 

Another use was to provide a resource for those who didn't belong to the church, as well as for widows and for orphans (Deuteronomy 26:12).  It was to be used this way so that the world would see how generous the Lord’s people were and know there was something different about them and come to know our Lord.  It was to help provide for those who couldn't provide for themselves, the lost, the broken, the hurting.  That is the true heart of God.  

So, do most of us tithe like that today? Do we give to the poor, widowed, and orphaned?  Do we care more about showing the world who God is through our love for His creation, or do we horde our belongings as if we acquired them all on our own?  As if we could!!  All we have belongs to HIM!  Shouldn't we at least give Him true praise by offering back to Him some of what He has already given us?  Just imagine… would there be one hungry person if every true believer tithed the way the Lord asked?  I think not.

I think many are good at giving the tithe (1/10th) at the end of our paycheck.  But what about honoring Him with our first?  And as far as the tithe goes, do we really honor him with a full tithe, or are we always looking for ways to hold back even there?  I know my worries sometimes push me to think about how much better it would be with that extra 10%.  However the real truth smacks me right between my eyes before I can get too far with that thought.  I know that without a doubt we should not be able to make ends meet right now.  Things keep breaking down and we keep trying to figure out how to pay for things.  But we do!!! That is because our God is taking care of our needs when we honor Him with what is rightfully His.  

NEW TESTAMENT (Testament/Covenant)

In the New Testament Jesus made things easy, the definition of the quantity of our tithe is...


In Romans 12:1-2 Paul writes to tell them/us to "present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."  In the New Testament we are to start with everything we are.  To me that means all our money and things, as well as our time, and deeds.  Giving of our money is difficult but we recognize that as tithe.  Sometimes giving of our time can be just as difficult.  Again we are selfish, we need our “me” time and heaven forbid if we don’t get it.  When that person at the grocery store starts a conversation with you are you loving them back by conversing with them, or hurrying away so you can do that next thing on YOUR To Do list instead of thinking maybe that person was on God's To do list?  And deeds, will you clean your neighbor’s house when they have that surgery?  Will you fix the washer when your mother-in-law is too poor to call someone else to do it?  Will you spend that extra time with your child when they are craving you, or will you once again tell them you are busy?

Jesus made it clear that in order to be a believer of Him, we needed to confess our sins, turn from them and to follow Him.  If that is the case, following Him needs to mirror His life.  Jesus gave away more than He ever received.  He cared for everyone, the disciples, the followers, the unwanted, the poor, the widowed, the orphaned, the tax collector, the prostitutes and even the Pharisees...  What one of those categories do you fall under?   It doesn’t matter, God Loves YOU!  And as a follower of Christ, so should I!

I believe I am a disciple of Christ, therefore my accountability is much higher than most.  And what I may have not known before this sermon is now before me and I will be held accountable for what I choose to do or not to do in light of this new information.  I don't want to stand before my Father and have him say, "Why didn’t you give my love to everyone you met?"  I believe my sins are absolutely covered by the blood of Jesus, but I must first confess, then I must repent.  And that means I must do my very best to do things the way they should be done according to His Word, not my wishes. And not because my works get me anywhere, but because I love Him and want to live for Him the way He wants me to.  

Love is in the midst of it all.  1 Corinthians 13:1-3  goes on to say that if you do all these wonderful things in this world, but have not love than it is for nothing, and profits me nothing.  Can we truly say we are tithing because we LOVE?

So where do you fall today?  Do you tithe?  How much and why?  Is it out of obligation or out of worship?  If it is the first, I task you to sit and think and pray with the Lord to change that.  Take your money before you tithe in your hands; tell the Lord how grateful you are for the opportunity to give back to Him.  Thank Him for all He has done for you.  Then offer up your tithe, your time, your hands and feet.  Show him that you love Him by listening to Him and finding out how He wants you to be used today.  Make your whole life a living sacrifice to Him who died for you, for He is so faithful to you regardless of your obedience.  

I have been doing this and sometimes I have cried, pouted and gotten angry.  But it was only because of what I found in my own heart…  Selfishness, fear and pride.  After many hours of prayer I am honored to say that I choose in love to give Him, my glorious Father… my First, my Last and my All.


Maleko said...

Great post, insightful and motivating. You are a great writer!

Carri said...

Thanks Mark! A great compliment from a great writer! I am honored.