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Thursday, 16 November 2017

It's about the money, of course!

The previous three posts have been about the word off YHWH to His people, the Children of Israel, through His prophet Malachi - and some lessons that we may learn for our own situations today, especially if we claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus, the Christ.

The last of YHWH's criticisms concerned the failure of the people to give to Him their tithes and offerings. Indeed, He had a name for such people - he called them "robbers"! "Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me. But you say, ‘How are we robbing You?’ In your tithes and offerings." (3:8).

As its Creator, everything that exists belongs to God. He is the proprietor; we are the stewards. The giving of the tithe (one-tenth of our income) is an acknowledgement of His ownership over all that we have - including the other nine-tenths of our income! I recall, very clearly, when I was a student at the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow, over fifty years ago, the then Superintendent of the Tent Hall - I think that his name was Stanley Collins - came to speak to the student body. The topic he chose was "Tithing"! It was the day that I determined to adopt this Old Testament practice - even although he pointed out that some of us might think that being Bible College students meant that we were giving greatly to the Lord's work, and that with College fees to pay, most of us had little spare cash with which to play about! "You might be given £1 towards your College fees, and think that that was okay. But 2 shillings of that £1 is the Lord's, and should be given directly to His work outwith your College courses. The other 18 shillings may go towards your fees!"

There are, of course, some disciples of Jesus who claim that tithing, as an Old Testament principle, ought not to be carried over into New Testament teaching on the subject of money. After all, they would claim, we live under grace, not law - and that, of course, is correct. However, tithing is a good place to start with one's giving as it establishes a principle that, when learned, opens up the way to bigger and better things. As a disciple of Jesus who has some awareness of what my salvation cost my Saviour, I do not tithe as a matter of law, but as a response of love!

The tithe, of course, is only the starting point! After that comes the freewill offering! Anyone knows that my tithe (in practice, "our" tithe, as my wife and I tithe together!) is 10% of my income. However, the freewill offering is between me and the Lord! One Christian businessman reportedly commented that "God has prospered me so much - now I want to know how much of God's money I may legitimately keep for myself and my family." That is the New Testament order - "How much of God's money may I legitimately keep for myself?" There are those who give their 10%, and think that the remaining 90% belongs to them. It doesn't! Everything that we have, and are, belongs to Him - and if we are to grow and develop spiritual values, then this is something that we must recognise. 

When, especially in the materialist society in which most of us live, you can let go of all of your possessions and let God have them, life takes on a sense of stewardship. Suddenly, you realise that you are handling something on behalf of Another! That does something to the whole of life - it puts sacredness into the secular. Money becomes a message! Jesus said: "You cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt.6:24); but you may certainly serve God with mammon!

YHWH throws out a challenge to the Children of Israel: "Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put Me to the test, says YHWH Sabaoth, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing." (Mal.3:20). This, I suspect, has been interpreted by some disciples of Jesus as a form of financial investment! However, treating it as such is, I believe, a certain way for the principle to fail - and fail utterly! As mentioned above, we must give because of our love for Him Who has given - and continues to give - so much to us.

Have you been robbing God? Perhaps it's time to take a careful look at your finances - and even realise why they may not be as healthy as they might be!

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