After being shipwrecked two men found themselves on a marooned uninhabited island – previously undiscovered. The first guy started to panic lamenting how he was going to die in lonely isolation; he was also getting increasingly agitated because the situation didn’t seem to bother his companion in the slightest. “What is it with you,” he snapped, “here we are in the middle of nowhere with no food, no shelter, no future and with no hope and it doesn’t seem to be bothering you one iota!”
The other man replied, “That’s because I am confident I will be off this island in less than three days’ time.”
“And what gives you that idea?” the man asked.
“Well I am a committed Christian and I attend my local church every Sunday” came the reply.
“So! What on earth has that got to do with anything?” was the curt response.
“Ah….” said his companion, “I am a billionaire as well – and I give £50,000 every week to my church, believe me my Pastor isn’t stupid – he will definitely find me before Sunday comes around – you can be sure of that!!!”
Well, there we have it, you know what they say, “money, money, money – it makes the world go round! It is something that is certainly important to every one of us and it is also important to God too. Did you know that almost half of the thirty-eight parables that Jesus told deal with the subject of money, possessions and stewardship? And in the Gospels alone it is said that one out of every ten verses – that’s 288 in total – are concerned directly with wealth, poverty and finance.
Christian commentators tell us that the Bible offers five hundred verses on prayer, five hundred on faith but more than two thousand verses on the subject of money, possessions and stewardship. In fact, Jesus speaks about this subject more than any other. So, if you don’t think money is important to God maybe the above facts will set you thinking.
Money is considered so important to some that many Christians struggle even giving the Lord what is rightfully His. And often they then wonder why then they are always strapped to pay the bills and make ends meet! As someone once said, ‘if God doesn’t feature in your finance then don’t be surprised if you don’t feature in His.’
The Tithing Factor
Statistics show that most Christians are more in to ‘tipping God for services rendered’ rather than ‘returning the tithe’ to God as the Bible tells us we should. (See Malachi 3 v 10). So what about the tithing factor?
Tithing, as you might be aware, started right back in the book of Genesis when Abraham gave Melchizedek the High Priest a tithe (or a tenth) of his recently acquired wealth. And later when Jacob really encountered the Lord he could think of no greater and stronger act of devotion to God than to tithe.
The writer of Proverbs proclaims ‘First of all, honour the Lord with your wealth.’ And the New Testament echoes back with the exhortation ‘to give’ in order to test the sincerity of your love.
Many over the years, have tried to say that tithing is an Old Testament practice. ‘If God wanted us to do it today then surely Jesus would have endorsed it’ they say as if to say ‘put that one in your pipe and smoke it.’ But contrary to what some people think, Jesus did actually promote tithing. One day he rebuked the Pharisees because ‘though tithing, they were ignorant and failing to keep other matters of the law.’ He told them, ‘you should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former.’
I suppose it wouldn’t be very gracious to say in response, ‘and put that in your pipe and smoke it!’ Would it?
The New Testament also teaches us to be systematic in our giving. It was the Apostle Paul, who said, ‘on the first day of every week each of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income to give to the Lord.’
Records of church history reveal that this kind of giving was continued by the early Church fathers and that the tithe was always a minimum base on which giving to God was structured. The principle was and always is – ‘tithes and offerings.’
Grace vs Law
Let me paint you a picture. Try to imagine an average Jewish family in New Testament times who we might assume had just become recent converts from Judaism to Christianity.
While living unenlightened under the Old Testament Mosaic law, these people would have paid from their monthly income not only tithes but also temple dues, sacrifices and offerings to their regular place of worship.
Now having become ‘born again’ by the Spirit of God, it is hardly likely they would want to give less under the new dispensation than they did under the old. The biggest transformation in the giving pattern for these folks would not be a matter of structure but a matter of attitude.
This ‘grace of giving’ as Paul calls it, was a declaration that their supply depended not on their hoarding but rather on the provision of their God. If they had been asked how they could afford to give so much, their reply might have been similar to the well-known words of the farmer who once said, ‘I shovel into God’s barn and God shovels into mine – and God has got the bigger shovel!”
The scriptures teach that ‘withholding leads to poverty’ – a sentiment with which the people of Haggai’s day in the Old Testament fully understood. The prophet challenges the believers of his day, ‘you earn wages only to put them in a purse with holes in it.’
If you were to read these two small chapters in Haggai you will discover the real truth is exposed. These people were attending to all their own needs and desires first and then, if there happened to be any money left over, (which they ensured there never was) then the work of the Lord might be given a small consideration. Oh yes, the people were always going to do something about their giving when they could afford it. However they never seemed to get round it. To their mind they could never afford it. But God challenged them to have a word with themselves and seriously consider their ways in this respect.
Proverbs 3 tells us that we are to ‘honour the Lord with all our wealth, and the first fruits of all our crops, then our barns will be filled to overflowing and our vats will brim over with new wine.’ In other words there will be plenty of supply in our lives – God will make sure of that!
So, you see it would seem money is important to God after all. I think deep down we all know that it is. The truth is the Bible makes it clear that your relationship with money and how you handle it really does reflect your overall relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Let me both encourage you and challenge you at the same time, make sure 2015 is a year when you honour the Lord in every way with your finances with your tithes and offerings and just watch Him honour you with His!! There is absolutely no doubt about it – His shovel will always be bigger than yours!