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Monday, June 8, 2015

Transparent and Truthful Tithing/ Giving

After some time Cain brought some of his harvest and gave it as an offering to the Lord. Then Abel brought the first lamb born to one of his sheep, killed it, and gave the best parts of it as an offering. The Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, but he rejected Cain and his offering. Cain became furious, and he scowled in anger. (Genesis 4:3-5 GNT)

He had a good night at the casino. He woke up in a generous mood. When he was dressed and went to grab a bite to eat, he tipped the waiter extra. He set off to church whistling and singing. "The service was great", he thought. The choir was angelic, the pastor hit on some good points, although he kind of crossed the line when he spoke about lying being the same as murder. The man decided that he would send him an email about that. When the pastor came back up to speak, the smile quickly left the man. The pastor wanted to set up the giving time. The man had a complete attitude by the time the pastor was done and as he watched the rows getting up to drop in their change, bills, checks and envelopes; he argued in his heart about giving. He had never seen the point of setting aside money when he gave it all the time to people on the street, his doorman, people who served him... It was too much! "And yes", he admitted in his heart, "I did win last night but that's not my wages so I don't have to give." But not wanting to look selfish in front of the congregation, he went up anyway and angrily dropped in a $5 bill from his stash of $7,200 winnings. After leaving abruptly, he was still angrily laying out his conversation he would have with the pastor and did not see the person, until they ran into him. "Sorry!” they yelled out and kept going. At this point, his mind was full of rage. So much so that he didn't reach in his pocket to count his money again, something he had even done 4 times while in church, until he got into his apartment and decided he needed cheering up. With a quick smile, he reached in and shot his head up as he replayed what had happened to him on his way out of church. All he could was drop to the couch in disbelief. Of all the times he had been to that very church and had money in his wallet, this was the first time he had been pick-pocketed.

This story illustrates how we, as believers, do each time we are asked to give God what is His. It may not be as dramatic for all; it may not even be literal. It may be that the pick-pockets are bills or some shopping done where you spent more than expected. It could be just in your heart and you are not a cheerful giver. Whatever the issue, we have somehow lost sight of what we have in our possession. We have forgotten that all that we own is to be surrendered to God, not just 10%. Yes, we decide what we give, however everything we have; He gave it to us. Without Him, we would have nothing, no matter how hard we worked.

Take, for instance, a loan that you have taken out for your car. You owe the financier the car payment/ the principle of the loan, but you are also paying interest on the loan so that you are essentially paying more than you saw on the ticket price. Depending on the loan place, if you miss one or more payments, they will come for your car.

Tithing is essentially the same with one major difference. God does not NEED your money! He owns cattle on a thousand hills! What you have is chump change in comparison to what He has without you! You’re not giving because He needs you; you’re not giving to the church or to put the pastor in a plush home and vehicle (although that happens sometimes). The ONLY reasons you are giving is because a) it is a command b) its His anyway c) to show your appreciation of all He has given you despite you and d) it is your act of worship. We selfishly assume that the building will crumble or God will cease doing daily miracles without our help. We assume that the church will change views of we threaten to "take our money elsewhere." NEWSFLASH!! This is not a business transaction that flutters on your very whim. Retail and other services have led us to believe that we are the cat's meow when it comes to consumerism.  They have led us to believe the lie that the "customer is always right" and we have taken that mindset to church. We believe that of we are not pleased with service, we don't need to pay. This is not the case. The enemy would also have us to believe that the church is a greedy whore that just wants our money. This is also further from the truth. There are two simple things that have helped me and I think can help you if you struggle with bringing "the whole tithe" to Him who it already belongs to.

The first thing is poverty. No matter what are status is or how much money we have, we are all one step away from poverty. Although I have never been wealthy or well off, I have been to the point where I could pay bills on time. During that season, I thought it more important to spend money on things not needed. After all that, I would give 10% and if I couldn't give the entire amount, I would feel bad and decide to give the balance the next time. My bills always came first, or spending before God. I thought because I was giving, it was okay, fully missing the point of "first fruits" when it came to tithing.

Now that I am in a season of poverty where ends are deciding they have better things to do than meet, I am finally seeing the value of giving. It has taken me most of my desert journey to get why God did not honor Cain's offering in Genesis 4. It wasn't just because He liked Abel more or because he was the youngest. There is a word that was used for Abel's giving that wasn't for Cain's... first fruits (verse 4). Cain gave out of obedience only; Abel gave out of worship, honor, love, gratitude and obedience. There was a decision Abel made, that Cain did not. He only gave because he was told to and taught to, Abel gave because he was grateful and knew he was giving to the Lord what was already His. Boy, what a difference aforethought makes!

The second thing is it's ALREADY His!! "The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness, thereof, the world and all who dwell in it." (Psalms 24:1) All this means is that it is already His. You’re not adding to His vast Kingdom, you're simply bringing it back when He gives it to you. He gives to us for that reason, to place into His care; all that He has given us in this world. Not just money but material, family, ministry, gifts, it's all to be given back to Him. My life verse, Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek His Kingdom and all His righteousness FIRST, that is a command. If I don't have any money to seek His Kingdom with, I bring my time and my talents. I give my first fruits of everything, all of me. I bring everything I have, sometimes that will be sacrificial, to His Kingdom for His use. The second part of that is a promise, "and all these things (in the previous verses) will be given to you..." It's that simple!

We, as humans, make it complicated. We begin to rationalize everything. We see a derelict on the street and immediately think that this person is lazy, they must be a drunk or drug addict and they need to get up and get a job "like the rest of us." So we justify that God wouldn't want us to support their "habit" and go pass without thinking of it again. It then becomes habit for us and pretty soon we are regular judges and don't even look their way. But what does the Word say? Galatians 5:14 says "love your neighbor as yourself." If you were in that predicament, would you want help? Matthew 5:42 says "give to the one who begs from you and do not refuse the one that would borrow from you." Another one is 1 John 3:17 and that says "if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abode in him?" There is a whole host of them if you do a word search and I will leave this list with you. http://www.openbible.info/topics/giving_to_the_needy

So I comes down to this, are you willing to give God what is already His? "Give, and it will be given to you. Pressed down, shaken together and running over. For with the measure you give, it will be given back to you." (Luke 6:38) Let me give you a visual picture of this, if you use a measuring cup when a neighbor comes and asks for some sugar, you will be sure to get just that back. But if they ask for some sugar and you give the bag, which is in there "pressed down, shaken together and running over", how much more will you receive when in need? Only God knows, will you put Him "to the test" as He challenges in Malachi 3:10? I am!