24 Sep Honouring God through giving
Oh My God! The pastor is back on this topic. Huh. . I see this man from a mission agency knocking on my door. Hmm, I see the Treasurer with the receipt book. Aha, I notice the EU Treasurer announcing about the tin at the back’ (freewill offering box) of the meeting place. People react depending on their understanding about tithes and offerings. When we think of giving, the immediate thought would be about what and how we give financial contributions to the Church, Christian organizations, needy people etc. We see a lot of teaching in the about Giving with a view of receiving manifold, ‘Giving to fulfil a commandment of God (whether we like it or not), Giving not to steal from God and quite often we hear emotional appeals to contribute.
What does Genesis talk about giving?
God created Adam & Eve and put them in the Garden of Eden to work in it and tend it (Gen. 2:15). Cain, the first son, brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground and Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. The person and attitude with which we give are important to God. After getting out of the Ark, the first thing Noah did was to build an altar to the Lord and made burnt offerings. The aroma was HONOURING God through GIVING pleasing to the Lord (Gen 8:20). Remembering God first and offering pure things is a sweet aroma to the Lord. Abraham (Gen. 12:2) honoured Melchizedek with tithes and received blessings from him (Gen 14:18-20). Melchizedek, king of righteousness, King of peace, having neither beginning nor end, resembling the Son of God continues as a priest forever (Heb. 1-3). Abraham knew His God, built altars and offered to Him. The true believer always races to worship him. The practice of offering, continued to honour God even though there was no temple for the Creator God.
What did the Lord say about tithes and offerings to Moses?
The Lord told Moses to receive gold, silver, bronze, oil, etc, (Exo. 25:1- 7). When the tabernacle was set up, God gave Levites the privilege of serving Him in the tabernacle and had the roles defined to the three clans, the Gershonites, the Kohathites and the Merarites (Num. 3: 17, Ch. 4). They were taken in place of first born of all Israel (Num. 3:45). Aaron’s family from the Kohathites perform the role of priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the sanctuary. Merarites, Gershonites and rest of Kohathites were to help out the priests. God provided for the temple duties and for the sustenance of the levites and the priests (Num. 18).Priests were put in charge of the offerings presented to the Lord. All the offerings made to the Lord by the Israelites were handed over to priests as their portion. God gave them the finest olive oil, new wine, grain (as the first fruits of their harvest) and everything that is devoted to the Lord, i.e., the first offspring of every womb, both man and animal (with some being redeemed). Those who serve the Lord deserve the best, for they were chosen by the Lord. Further, He gave the Levites, the tithes from the rest of the tribes (Num. 18:21). Levites were to present a tithe of the tithes (Num. 18: 32) as the Lord’s portion to the Aarons/ priests. Israelites were to present the best of their produce to the Levites and the Levites were to give the best of the best to the Lord through the priests. In Deuteronomy 14:22-29, we see God making provisions for the poor, the needy, the foreigners, etc. In essence, the tithe of tithes is what comes to the temple (Also, refer Neh. 10: 35-38) and brought by the Levites, not the Israelites. It is important to note that the average Israelite was giving more than 20% of income to God (counting the first born, first fruits of the trees, crops, animals etc, and thanksgiving offering in addition to the sin offerings). All Israel gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and set apart that which was for the Levites, and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron (Neh. 12:44). God’s people will set apart what is due to His servants. How do we interpret Malachi 3:8-10? In the Old Testament, is it the Israelites or the Levites
who must bring the tithes to the temple?
Is it only the priests who should be eating those or does it include the Levites, too? If all tithes were to come to the temple, then how were the Levites who were living in towns far from the temple were fed? To understand these verses better, we will have to study Nehemiah 10:35-38, 12:44 and Numbers. 18. God challenged people to honour Him wholeheartedly by giving as mandated in His Law. Also, He was mandating the priests to be true to their calling and offer acceptable offerings to Him (Mal. 1-2). True believers offer their best to the Lord. What does New Testament say about various roles we see in the Old Testament? Before Christ, the roles we see were that of a Chief Priest, the Priests, and the Levites. Jesus Christ, our Chief Priest (Heb. 7) made the sacrifice on the cross once for all. The necessity of regular sin offerings has been taken away and there is no need of priests and Levites to carry out this job. Believers are the royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:11) and are being built as the temple of the Lord with Jesus Christ as the Head. Then, does this mean that the Church of God will be built on its own?
Are the pastors/the current day churches only the means for this?
God has appointed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4: 11- 13). Let us relook at Mal. 3:10, in the context of Ephesians 4:11-13 and understand where we must give. What does Paul teach? Paul talks about giving to those who expound the Word of God and they are worthy of double honour (pastors in Churches?), 1 Tim. 5:17, giving for special needs, Phil. 4: 16, to the needy, Gal. 2:9- 10. He also lays down principles of giving in 2 Corinthians 8 & 9. The Macedonians gave themselves first to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5), gave beyond their means (2 Cor. 8: 3). He urges the Corinthians to give as decided cheerfully, not reluctantly or under compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7), according to their ability (2 Cor.14 8:11) and Paul urges them to excel in the grace of giving (2 Cor. 8:7). What did Jesus and then Paul talk about investing our treasures? Jesus tells us to store up treasures in heaven in Mattew 6:19 and Paul in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, tells us about how we may safely invest in eternal things. What do we take when we die? When we die, what we carry will be the results of our (good) deeds and those in whom we invest our time, talents, and treasures. Finally, Ecclesiastes 11:9 talks about God bringing us to judgement about how we lived, which includes how we managed God given riches.
Do we have biblical examples?
David towards the end of his life in the assembly of people and leaders acknowledges God’s sovereignty in his life (1 Chr. 28:4-6), demonstrates that obedience to God is essential in one’s life (1 Chr.28:1-6) pleads with God to do his part in building up of God’s temple though he would not get any credit for it (1 Chr. 28:11-19), passes on the baton to his successor. He documented the vision, procured material, prepared people to carry out the work, communicated and exhorted them to be part of the greater plan to glorify God. He lso gave abundantly from his personal treasures (1 Chr. 29:3-5) and set himself as an example to his officers and people (1 Chr. 29: 5–9). God acknowledged David among men of faith (Heb. 11). Let each of us emulate David and be a person of God’s own heart in obeying and in giving.
Ashok Palukurthi lives in Chennai with his wife Parameswari, an ophthalmic surgeon and school going children Sarah and Samuel. He works in IT industry. He serves as UESI treasurer.