November 29, 2022
The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it.Proverbs 10:22 NKJV
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.Matthew 23:23 NKJV
Attitudes about money are tricky. People are touchy about it. This is true of Christians and non-believers alike. As with many things, the Christian community holds a broad spectrum of ideas on the subject. One bunch demands that we sell everything, don sackcloth and sandals, and live in a cave. On the other side of the highway stand the espousers of divinely provided wealth. If you just have enough faith, you can get yourself a Rolls and a Rolex! Both believe they are standing firmly on biblical principle. As with most things, truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
In discussing biblical finances, especially the tithe, we can fall into a brand of pharisee-ism that demands we pick a side and argue about it. We get lost in the weeds of the discussion and miss the point. We debate the formula, then we discuss how to apply it, then who is required to do it. In the uproar we miss the heart of God. He cares about your heart, not your money. Before we look at what to do, we need to get a grip on why we do it. If I seek riches to feed my desires or my ego, I am missing the point.
No matter what you call it or how you divide it up, the overriding theme of Bible giving is generosity. I see in the Word that God wants me prosperous, but more than that, He wants me generous. Selfish, earthly prosperity comes with sorrow attached because it diminishes others in order to increase itself. It’s based on a competitive mindset that sees provision as a finite, single pie to be divided and devoured by the strongest and brightest. I want mine, and if possible, I will take yours and make it mine.
The blessing of the Lord flows from the largesse of an Infinite Provider and is designed to enhance my ability to freely give, not to reward me for the greatness of my faith or the wonder of my talents. God has provided us with powerful tools and instructions on how to enjoy His abundance. We are empowered to sow and reap. We have a slew of Proverbial financial wisdom. The Bible describes three general categories of giving designed to exercise the generosity muscles: Tithes, offerings, and alms (charity for the less fortunate). These came as requirements in the Old Covenant because men’s hearts were hard and not prone to generosity. The New Covenant talks a lot about giving, but it’s speaking to people who have a new heart. The Cross changed everything.
Between the Old Covenant and the New came a unique transitional time. Jesus, the Messiah, God in the flesh, was personally present. He was born under the Law, He came to fulfil the Law, and to institute a new order. He had a lot to say about money, but His comments had more to do with the heart of a man than the amount in the till. He consistently pointed out to the religious crowd that they had heart trouble. Let’s take a brief look at some of His advice:
- Don’t give to be seen. Matthew 6:1-4. Who are you trying to impress? Jesus knew that we love to be praised for our goodness. He warned against that impulse when it comes to giving. So, you want your name on the new building or the chairs? Fine. That will be your reward.
- Money is a jealous master. Matthew 6:24-34. Who are you serving? You can’t serve God and money. You’re the servant of whomever tells you what to do. Fear of lack is not a good guide for life. We certainly need to filter financial decisions through God’s principles on stewardship, but we never make decisions based on fear of the cost to ourselves.
- Give from a good heart. Luke 11:39-42 Don’t try to substitute legal conformity for doing the right thing for the right reason. These guys were fastidious tithers, making sure to give exactly the tenth of every required substance. Unfortunately, their motives were wrong. Jesus wants giving to come from a heart of compassion, a desire to bless others and to glorify God.
- Put Heaven first. Luke 12:33-34 Where is your heart? Jesus says it will be wherever you store what is valuable to you. Where are you making deposits? Put your heavenly deposits first.
- Jesus’s standards are internal and eternal. Mark 12:41-44. Jesus watched how people gave their offerings, not what they gave or how much. It’s not the size of the gift, it’s the sincerity of the heart and the size of the sacrifice required that counts.
- Covetousness is the enemy. Luke 12:13-21 It’s the nature of fallen man to always desire more. There’s never enough for the avaricious heart. When your brother prospers, rejoice! God’s got enough for you both. When God gives you a surplus, it’s not for you to squirrel away. It’s for you to feed the other squirrels.
Scripture reading: But if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that. Those who long to be rich, however, stumble into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains. (1 Timothy 6:8-10 NET)
Somebody Said: “The love of money is the root of all evil. It is not wrong to have money; it is wrong for money to have you. It is wrong for money to be your master.” Kenneth E. Hagin
Here’s the Point: After the fall of Adam, mankind developed a hardness of heart that is reflected in greed, selfishness, and envy. God gave financial laws so that His people would be marked by their generous giving, reflecting His nature. Laws can only guide behavior, they can’t change hearts. Jesus addressed this repeatedly. He wants us to be generous, putting the Kingdom first, and living free from financial fear. After His resurrection, those who trust in Him receive a new heart, a generous heart, a heart that looks like His. The requirements of the law are not the goal. They only told those under the law the minimum requirement for godly generosity. We are better than that.
Next time we’ll look at some of the apostolic teaching on money. Until then, take time to read and meditate the scriptures given here. Let the Word and the Spirit mold your heart.
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