Well, as I intended to teach on something else today, the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart to share something different a week or so ago. Today, I want us to camp on the subject of financial stewardship and positioning ourselves under the economy of the kingdom of God.
Now some of the things we will learn today are not popular topics in most churches. The moment you broach the subject of finances and giving, many people check out, not wanting to hear about these things. And understandably so, because there has been a certain amount of misuse and abuse of this subject in the body of Christ. But how many of you know that you don’t throw the baby out with the dirty bath water? No, just because there are some who would pervert these truths, there is still a reality and relevance to them that we would do good to remind ourselves of periodically.
Now I do want to make clear to you one thing—we are not talking about the proper stewardship of our finances today because the church is hurting financially, and we need people to step it up in their giving. I know that’s why a lot of churches periodically emphasize these things, but that is not why we are talking about them today. The truth is that we have been blessed at our church this year to where even when we set our budget at the beginning of 2020 for a normal year, not knowing of the things that would befall us this year with the pandemic and all, we still came out with positive cash flow and were not in the red at all. I’m sure there are a lot of churches and ministries out there who cannot say that in 2020. But do you know why HPC has this testimony? Yes, it was because we have a group of people who call this their church home that give and are generous, but the main reason we have been blessed this past year is due to the fact that High Point Church itself gives and is generous. That’s right—our church (your church) does exactly what you will learn today, and we are blessed because of it.
So, don’t entertain the thought for a minute that this message has a hidden motive behind it. No, I can assure you that it is a God-inspired message meant to help you position yourself for that same blessing of living under God’s economy.
Now what do I mean when I refer to God’s economy. Well, an “economy” is defined as “the wealth and resources of a country or region, especially in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services.” So, I refer to the economy of God because God certainly has His own riches in glory. Yes, His kingdom has a system and management of His resources. Therefore, it behooves us to live under His system and not this world’s economic system.
I believe the Holy Spirit has put this on my heart this week, not because we are failing at it or because we need some admonishment in this area. I believe this is an area that this church, as a general rule, excels at. No, I believe He is leading me to talk to us about these things this week because He wants us to prepare and position ourselves for something that is on the horizon.
You see, with the uncertainties we’ve experienced in 2020, I think we could all see there being other things coming up in 2021 and beyond. I am not trying to prophesy negative things, but the truth is we are headed towards the last of the last days. And these times promise to be a bumpy ride for some—and this will certainly include the economies of this world. Therefore, it is imperative that you and I sow the right kind of seed now for the harvest we will need tomorrow. Yes, we need to start operating under God’s economic system if we have not done so already so that if and when this world’s economy around us fails, we have built our foundation on and put our trust in something spiritual, eternal, and unfailing. Amen?
Now what we are doing here today with giving to others is certainly part of this. The use of our resources, time, and energy to bless and honor others is something that helps position us for the honor of God in our own lives. And one of the reasons why we do this annual thing called First Fruits Sunday is to help everyone realize that this should not just be a once-a-year thing, but we are to live our lives being a blessing to others in the body of Christ.
But this is just one way we enter God’s economic system of blessing: What I had on my heart to do today is talk about the various things that you and I can do so that we have the right frame of mind and mentality that positions us for His blessings. Of course, this will include a few types of giving, but before I get into this, I want us to first look at one of the most important aspects of positioning ourselves in God’s economy—the way we see ourselves.
A BLESSED MENTALITY
Church, this is so much more important than many of us realize. An oft used Scripture here is “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) Well, do you reckon that it could work this way in the financial arena? Do you think that if we think contrary to the way God thinks of us in our finances, that it could impede us experiencing what God wills for us? Absolutely! Someone might say, “Prove it!” Just look around you! Most Christians are not experiencing everything God desires for them, right? So, I guarantee you that this would include our finances as well.
So, let’s talk a little about the mentality that we need to have regarding ourselves and financial increase by going over to Galatians 3:13-14: Now we’ve spent months talking about how we were redeemed from the curse of the law a few years ago and we saw how this certainly included poverty & lack. But in verse 14, we see how not only have we been redeemed from the curse of the law; we have been redeemed for the blessing of Abraham.
So, what is this blessing of Abraham? Many read this to say, “the blessings of Abraham”—thinking that being blessed is just having a lot of stuff. But this is something that we need to renew our minds to because there is a difference between being “blessed” and having “blessings.” Being blessed is the empowerment to prosper and obtain blessings, but the blessings are not the root of the blessing. They are simply the fruit of the blessing.
We are told in Proverbs 10:22— “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich and adds no sorrow to it.” Notice that in this Scripture, the blessing of the Lord is separated from riches. We, likewise, need to separate the two because the blessing is not wealth; it is the power to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18).
You see, the blessing of the Lord is an intangible thing. If our house were to burn down today, we are still blessed. Abraham’s blessing is not a donkey, a camel, a tent, etc. It is the root of the things he possessed. So, the blessing of the Lord is an intangible thing that affects tangible things. To the Jews, they understood the blessing because they grew up in it. We here don’t understand as well. We like to label blessings as things, but they did not see it that way.
A great example of the blessing is found in the life of Joseph…
In Genesis chapter 39, after Joseph was sold by his brothers, it starts off by saying, “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharoah, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there.” Have you felt like you are “down there?” So, picture what was happening here: Joseph was in his lowest state. He had just been betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery for 20 shekels of silver (Sounds familiar, huh? i.e. Jesus was sold out for 30 pieces of silver by Judas). Now he, being stripped of his tunic of many colors, was standing stripped of his coat that represented his favor, being sold into slavery. So for all intents and purposes, Joseph looked as though he had been stripped of all favor and had hit rock bottom being sold into slavery. But then in Genesis 39:2 we are told that the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man! Mind you, this statement was on the heels of him being in the lowest place of his life.
So here is the lesson we need to learn from this: Even if everything in our life seems to be falling apart and we are in our lowest state, God is still with us and, therefore, He still sees us as prosperous! Amen! Therefore, we need to see ourselves the same—as blessed and prosperous! Our circumstances do not determine whether or not we are blessed; God’s Word determines that we are blessed! Amen!
The Greek word for “blessing” is eulogia—which is derived from the word logos meaning “word.” So, you cannot separate God’s Word from His blessing. And until we learn to receive God’s Word, we won’t be blessed. His Words are what blesses us—that is, us putting faith in His Words! The blessing of the Lord works in our lives as we mix faith with it.
You see, saints, Abram had the Lord speak blessings over his life before he ever saw the manifestation of them: In Genesis 12:1, God “had said” these things to him, and He has also said many things to us! He has promised us that the blessing of Abraham is on our lives, that He wills for us to prosper in all things and be in health, that He has pleasure in the prosperity of His servants, etc., etc., etc. But like it was with Abram, we will not see the manifestation of them until we start seeing ourselves as blessed!
You see, even though Abram certainly saw the blessing of the Lord in his life, he had to have his name changed from Abram to “Abraham” in order for the ultimate fruit of the blessing to begin coming into fruition in his life. In other words, God had to change this man’s identity before he could receive the promise! Likewise, we need to change our identity as well! We need to start seeing ourselves as a blessed, highly favored, and prosperous man or woman of God. Then when that new identity is formed within us, we change our confession: no longer am I just “Lonnie Willis Dickerson III” identifying myself by my old name; now I am “Trey Blessed Dickerson!”
Saints, this is how real this needs to become to us—that just as we are Trey, Robert, Minton or Shannon; we are blessed! It is who we are! We are just as much blessed as we are who we are! Amen! That is what God’s Word says that we are in the kingdom of God. Therefore, in God’s economy, we are not paupers; we are a prosperous people—extremely wealthy spiritually and blessed beyond measure.
So, since we are the blessed of the Lord, let’s talk about what blessed people do—they give! And they don’t just give like a person who is struggling to make ends meet. No, they give like they always wanted to give when they hit that golden ticket. Church, I am here to tell you today that we have that golden ticket! It’s the blessing of the Lord! Now people who believe they are blessed give like they are blessed!
Which goes along with the first point I want to make concerning how we give. Blessed people honor the Lord and others with their giving.
It’s all about HONOR, church! Everything from our giving to the Lord—His representatives and His works—is to be done in honor—that is, as us preferring, valuing, and esteeming that person or thing we are giving to.
Hopefully, that is how many of you felt today—like you were valuable and important because someone thought of you and took of their time and resources to do something for you. That is the way the recipients of all of our giving ought to feel when we do something for them.
You see, what the Lord is primarily interested in is not what we give, but how we give it.
Proverbs 3:9-10 clearly teaches us how He wants us to give— “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.”
Now that’s a pretty awesome promise, isn’t it? Now our “barn” might be our bank accounts and our “vats” are synonymous with our businesses. So, how many of you would like to see your bank accounts filled with plenty and your businesses overflowing with new business, ideas, etc.? I’m sure we all would!
Well, these verses teach us how to do this, and it is not through just simple giving. Verse 9 says, “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the firstfruits of all your increase.” The key word in this verse is found in the word “honor.” In other words, we are to value, esteem, and respect Him, first, with our possessions. That means that when we give something to Him, we don’t do it half-heartedly. We give our highest and our best to Him. Just as the Lord had to correct the children of Israel—don’t give sacrifices that are not really sacrifices. Why? Because that is dishonorable!
One of my favorite examples of honorable giving is in the story of Cain and Abel: We all know the story of how God respected Abel’s offering and did not respect Cain’s offering and much debate has been made as to why. Well, I believe that Hebrews 11:4 tells us the reason why: it was because Abel gave his offering in faith. Genesis 4:4 says that Abel gave the firstborn of his flock (i.e. the first and, therefore, the best) and of their fat (i.e. their richest parts), but Genesis 4:3 said that Cain “in the process of time” gave of the fruit of the ground. The phrase “in the process of time” literally meant “at the end of days.” So, I believe the problem with Cain’s sacrifice was that it was not a sacrifice at all. He came to sacrifice to God when it was convenient for him. I believe he offered to God what he had left over and what he could spare, unlike Abel who gave the first and the best. You could put it this way: Abel gave sacrificially and honorably, while Cain gave conveniently and dishonorably. This was the big difference between Cain’s offering and Abel’s offering.
You see, just because someone gives something to someone else doesn’t necessarily mean that it honored them. I think we all could probably say that we’ve received something from someone that didn’t make us feel special and important. Take, for example, a waiter or a waitress—just because someone left them a tip doesn’t necessarily mean they were blessed by it. But when that server is left a tip that is substantially larger than the standard 15%, it creates what is called a “Wow” experience and thereby honors them. That’s the way our giving should be. I’m not saying that it always has to be above and beyond what is expected, but I am saying that if we are giving like God gives, then it should wow people more times than not. That’s what we should aspire to give like—like HIM.
So, I say this to say that it’s all about honoring the Lord in our giving and not following some rule or formula that we feel compelled to follow. When we give this way—cheerfully, willingly, and honorably—we will position ourselves for God’s best in our lives because He Himself said, “If you honor Me, I will honor you.”
But Solomon didn’t just say to honor the Lord with our possessions; he also said to honor Him with the first fruits of all our increase. So, let’s talk about this blessed and honorable giving with what we are doing here today—First Fruits.
This particular type of giving is generally used interchangeably with the tithe by many people, but this could not be totally true because there was a distinction made between them under the Old Covenant.
You see, the tithe is the “tenth” of all our increase, wherein the first fruits is the giving of the first harvest totally. So, when you tithe, you are giving ten percent of all of the increase that you get—whether that be the first, second, third or last harvest. But with your first fruits, you are giving the first lump sum of increase that you have. Let me explain: A good example of what the Bible means by “first-fruits” would be say, for instance, I was unemployed and then God gave me an awesome job. Well, in our day and time, since most of us are not farmers, the salary that I receive from that job would be my increase from the Lord. So, the “first-fruit” of my increase would be my first paycheck, right? So how could I honor the Lord through the principle of first fruits? It would be by me giving my first entire paycheck to the Lord. Tithing would just be giving of ten percent of that paycheck, not the entire thing.
So, you see, tithing and first fruits are similar but they are not the same. First fruits can almost be best described as “the annual tithe.” It is first of the year, month, season, etc. as opposed to the first 10% of every single increase.
Let me give you another couple of examples of first fruits: Say I had asked the Lord to help me eliminate any and all debt in my life, and then a brother or sister in Christ approached me and said that the Lord told them to give me $500 a month until I paid off all my debts. In that instance, my “first fruit” of that would be the initial gift of $500. Or, say that I was believing the Lord for the money to buy a new car and someone sent me a check out of the blue for $250. What would my “first-fruit” be of what I was believing the Lord for? Of course, it would have been the first harvest of $250. Do you understand what I mean by first fruits? It is simply defined as the first, and consequently, the best harvest!
Now the Bible has much to say about the giving of first fruits. It was instituted in the Law as a commandment but, just as it is with the tithe, it is not a commandment any longer. It is now a principle that we should willingly abide by in order to honor the Lord. However, this is again, not anything that we have to do. It is simply a principle of giving that honors the Lord and releases even a greater harvest in our lives.
So why do you think that God has given us the principle of giving our first fruits? It is because God wants us to recognize where the harvests come from. He wants us to be thankful for what He has given us and for us to show Him that our hope and trust is fully in Him. You see, this type of giving requires a lot of faith—especially when you need that initial harvest to meet your needs. But as the old saying goes— “You can’t out-give God!” He will make sure you have all the grace you need when you put that kind of faith in Him.
So, what we are doing here today is we are honoring the Lord on this, the first Sunday of this new year, by blessing one another. No, we are not supposed to use our entire paycheck to bless our church family. However, we are supposed to do whatever the Lord puts on our heart to do for one another. Verily, verily, I say unto you: It is always more blessed to give than to receive.
But it’s also about faith and trust—which is where this next form of giving also comes in called the tithe.
The word tithe has almost become a religious cliché in many of our Christian circles. If you asked many believers what the word “tithe” really means most could not tell you. Sure, they know it relates to giving to the Lord and His church, but they believe “tithing” is giving any amount whatsoever.
The word used for “tithe” just literally means “the tenth.” So tithing describes the giving of a tenth of our increase; or you could say tithing is giving 10% of our income.
Therefore, technically you cannot “tithe” 20%, 30%, etc. The tithe is only a tenth and anything above and beyond that 10% would be classified as an offering. So, “tithing is not tipping." But this is what many believers do; they plunk some spare change they have in their wallet in the offering and leave thinking that was their "tithe." No, to tithe means we specifically gave a tenth of our increase, whether that be once a week or once a month etc. It is not putting a ten dollar bill in the offering like you were tipping a waiter (unless, of course, $10 was ten percent of your income for that period of time).
Now there has been much debate in the Body of Christ concerning tithing. The debate revolves around whether we are commanded to tithe under the New Covenant or not. And let me first say that just because something was commanded under the Old Covenant does not mean that it isn’t at least a good principle for us to follow under the New Covenant. And in the case of the tithe, it did not even originate with the Law of Moses! Genesis 14:20 shows us that tithing began with Abram when he willingly gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the spoils of his victory. Jacob was also evidently taught about the principle of tithing because he made a vow to God that he would give a tithe of everything he possessed upon his safe return (Genesis 28:22). The tithe was included into the Law of Moses many years after Abram had freely and willingly instigated it. This teaches us that the tithe is most definitely a good principle for us to abide by today seeing that it was practiced even before the law came.
I believe the problem with how tithing is presented in many churches today is that it is taught as law and, therefore, involves punishment if we fail to do it. The truth is that we are not under the Law of Moses or the Levitical Law anymore (Romans 6:14)! Christ fulfilled the law in our place! So, therefore, we are not to do any of the deeds of the law because we are seeking to be justified by God. We already are justified before God because we are in Christ Jesus! Therefore, we should now tithe, not because we are seeking God’s approval, but because we already have God’s approval! We should now tithe because we desire to honor Him with our increase just as Abram did. And although many of whom will read this do not believe they are tithing because they are trying to stay in God’s good graces, there is one way you can find out if you are tithing with this wrong motive: If you stop tithing for a month would you still have the same boldness to approach God with your needs? Some, if they were honest, would have to say no. Why? Because it has been hammered into us that if we do not “pay” our tithes that God is going to be mad at us! That, my friend, is the Old Covenant way of approaching God! Under the New Covenant we can approach God boldly—not because we tithe or do anything else for Him- but because Jesus did everything for us!
Another misconception in the Body of Christ concerning tithing is that we are cursed with a curse if we do not return a tenth of our increase to God. Many preach that if you do not “pay” your tithes that God will take it out in doctor’s bills! That is Old Covenant doctrine and extremely opposed to the Gospel! Galatians 3:13 tells us that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us! That curse that Malachi said came upon the Jews who did not give their tithes and offerings, was part of the curse of the law! And those that are in Christ are redeemed from the curse of the law! Do you know why God even instigated the curse of the law under the Old Covenant? It was given because they were like little children under a tutor (see Galatians 3:23-25). And just as little children need to be taught by discipline because they are not mature enough to understand why they should not do certain things, likewise, those under the Old Covenant were ignorant to spiritual things and had to be taught through discipline. You never spanked your children for not looking both ways before they cross the street because you just felt like it! No! You disciplined them because they were ignorant to the dangers and you were trying to protect them from getting hurt. But now we are no longer spiritually dead and ignorant, therefore, we do not need to be motivated by fear of discipline. How much sense would it make if you saw some teenager getting spanked by his or her parents for not looking both ways before crossing the road? That would be pathetic! Likewise, we are now to be motivated to do what God said in His Word, not because we are afraid of the consequences, but just because we know it is the right thing to do.
So, am I saying that we are not to tithe under the New Covenant? Absolutely not! All I am saying is that we need to re-evaluate why we are tithing. Is it motivated by fear or love? And, sad to say, the way many churches are motivating their members to tithe falls under this same “law mentality.” And when believers get this “law mentality” it has the danger of turning into a “religious spirit.” Jesus was rebuking the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:23 when He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise, and cumin, 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.” Jesus told these religious leaders that they should have been tithing like they were. Why? Because tithing was a commandment to them and was beneficial to do. But His point was that there were more important things than just these external rituals they were abiding by. God sees justice, mercy, and faith as more important and valuable than tithing! Remember the Pharisee that Jesus said stood in the temple and bragged about his outward works (one being tithing) (Luke 18:12)? Jesus said that this kind of attitude stunk in the nostrils of God!
My point is that when you do tithe, you need to watch your motive and your attitude because, if you are not careful, you can develop this religious spirit that criticizes others since it is an outward work. If you ever boast about a religious deed you do it is because it is a work to you! (Ephesians 2:9)
Under the New Covenant, it is very clear that we have only two commandments—that is, that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. (And, of course, by obeying these two commandments we will fulfill the rest of God’s righteous requirements.) This means that everything we do for the Lord should now be motivated by love and not by fear. So, if you are giving your tithe like you are paying off the mafia then adjustments need to be made in your heart. As a matter of fact, we could go a little deeper and say that if you are “paying” your tithes like you pay your electric bill then you are missing it as well.
You see, what I am saying is that we should not give our tithe because of some sense of obligation or to keep God’s power from being cut off in our life. We are totally unworthy in ourselves (whether we tithe or not) of receiving any of God’s blessings in our life. But, in Christ Jesus, we have been made worthy to receive all things that pertain to life and godliness—not by any good that we do but simply through our faith in the accomplishments of Jesus!
Now let’s look at some familiar passages of Scripture that we use in reference to tithing found in Malachi chapter 3…
In verse 7, God was speaking through Malachi and He said that Israel had left His ordinances. These ordinances, we will see, was the giving of their tithes and offerings. In verse 8 He asked the question… “Will a man rob God?” Then He went on to say, “Yet you have robbed Me. But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” Many ministers refer back to these Scriptures to teach that if you do not “pay” your tithes that you are robbing God! And the way that they present it motivates the hearers to tithe out of fear. Under our new and better covenant, God does not want us to do anything motivated by fear. Everything we do for Him now is to be motivated by love and appreciation—especially our giving. Now why did God consider this “robbing” Him? It was because He made it clear that the tithe was His (Leviticus 27:30)! And if they spent what was His then that was considered stealing His money.
Now I am about to say something that will shock you at first but just hear me out and let me explain. I do not believe, under the New Covenant, that the tithe is the Lord’s! “What? How can you say that?” (someone might be thinking). The reason I can say that is because, under the New Covenant, we died and our life is now hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)! In other words, as Galatians 2:20 eloquently puts it, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” What does this have to do with 10% of our income being the Lord’s? I’m glad you asked. If we were buried with Jesus when we made Him our Savior and our Lord then we don’t own anything because we are dead! And since we are now in Christ, the life we are living is Him living through us! So, my point is that since we are dead and Christ is living through us, everything we possess is God’s! In other words, 10% is not the Lord’s anymore; now 100% is the Lord’s!
So now if it is all the Lord’s money then how do we know how much to give? The answer is we should be Spirit led and prompted. The catch in all this is that if you are not being led to give more under this new and better Covenant than what they were commanded to give under the old Covenant then you ain’t being led (pardon my bad English)!
Another question that arises in regard to tithing is “Where are we supposed to give it?” And, again, we can’t get legalistic about it. We can learn from the principles of the Old Testament but, in my opinion, we just need to be led where to give it. The law prescribed that the tithe was to be given to the Levites (which were those of the Tribe of Levi who were set apart to serve in the Lord’s house). It is difficult to understand what kind of ministers that the Levites were a type of under the New Covenant but one conclusion we can make is that they represent the minister that is in full-time ministry and does not have any other source of income. So how do we know if God would prefer for us to give it in our local church or to a traveling minister? Well, Deuteronomy 12:5-6 gives us some indications of this that might help us decide. It says that you tithe to the place that God has chosen to put His name for His dwelling place. First of all, when the Bible speaks of the name of God it is referring to the representation of God. In other words, it refers to His character, nature, power, and authority. So when the Word of God teaches us to tithe to the place where God has chosen to put His name, it is telling us to tithe to the place that God’s character, nature, authority, and power is represented. For example, He is talking about a church where they correctly represent His nature and character and where they believe in and demonstrate His authority and power. This would exclude many churches today that believe that the gifts passed away with the apostles and that God is a ruthless tyrant who only loves you when you are perfect. The other qualification is that the place we tithe to needs to be a place that God has chosen to put His name for His dwelling place. In other words, God’s presence and anointing need to be present there. Some churches you go into have just such an atmosphere that is charged with the presence of God. Some ministers just operate in and even usher the anointing of the Holy Ghost into a service. These are the churches and ministries that God has chosen for His dwelling place! So from these two principles we can learn that we need to tithe to the ministry that is rightly dividing the word of truth—accurately representing the nature and power of God—and also to the ministry that is anointed and carries the ark with it wherever it goes. Now, of course, this does not limit us to a local church but I personally like to give it to my local church because it is a consistent amount that they can budget and my offerings go to other ministries that I feel accurately represent the Lord and carry His presence.
So, to wrap this all up, what I am saying is that we ought to tithe under the New Covenant but our motive needs to be pure. It needs to be pure, not because it is a commandment, but because it is a vehicle for showing our love and appreciation to God for all He has given us stewardship over. Tithing is just our way of willingly and from our heart honoring God! God is so good to us so we ought (Matthew 23:23) to return 10% off the top of our paycheck to Him! It is the least we could do for all He has given us! And I do mean—“the least we could do!” We should be willing to do so much more for Him than just 10%! And when we get full of the Spirit of God and fall so in love with Him then our giving a tithe of all we possess will not be hard at all. We will actually begin to rejoice when we have the opportunity to give, which is the attitude God wanted us to have from the beginning (See Deuteronomy chapter 12). The hardest thing we will face when we get that turned on to God will be not being able to give into everything we desire to. This is the attitude God wants us to have in our giving!
Again, am I saying that we should not practice tithing? God forbid. I believe that the tithe is still a good guideline and principle for us to follow as a bare minimum. But we should be giving well above and beyond just the 10% of our income!
What I personally do is I practice tithing because I desire to honor God with a tenth of all the income He has graced me with. Then I give more to other ministries that I had on my heart to partner with and also to other different individuals and projects as they arise.
So, am I saying that we don’t have to tithe? Yes, I am! God does not want you to do anything if you do not want to! He wants your heart and not just your wallet! Am I saying that we shouldn’t tithe? No, I am not! I am saying that we should want to tithe! It should be our desire to give back to the Lord a portion of all that He has entrusted to us.
Now one thing that causes so many believers to stumble with tithing is that they think there is no way that they can give 10% of their income to the Lord because they wouldn't have enough to pay their bills with. Well, I can personally attest (as can many more of you out there) that when we honor the Lord with the first 10% of our increase, we will not lack.
You cannot out-give God, saints! And if you will step out in faith and obedience to this statute of God, God will cause that 90% to go further than the 100% did. In fact, tithing is one of the only things God actually tells us to try Him in (Malachi 3:10).
But I see the Lord as saying here, “Just trust Me.” We have to learn to trust the Lord in the area of our finances and we are fooling ourselves if we say we are trusting God, but are not giving Him at least a tenth of our increase.
You see, when you sow, you reap because you are proving that you truly do trust Him. I seriously doubt that one trusts God in the area of finances if they do not give. Because He lays out the principles in the Bible, whether they are commandments or not, that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. So if you believe and trust God, you will sow. It is that simple.
So I encourage you today, if you are not giving the Lord the first 10% of your increase because you feel like you can't or simply because you have never been taught to, step out in faith on God's Word today and say through your actions, "God, I am going to trust you in this. I am going to give you the opportunity to open up the windows of heaven and pour out the blessing on the other 90%. Yes, do yourself a favor and act on the Word of God—again, not to get something, but because of all you have received from the Lord and you want to honor Him in obedience. He is faithful who promised, who also will do it!
And regarding this subject of giving, let me reiterate this to you: God does not need our money! He is not in lack! God just simply wants all our heart. And if He gets all our heart, then He will get at least 10% of our increase. It is that simple.
Again, loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is far more important than your gifts to Him (see Mark 12:33). Never forget this one truth: You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving! You can give money to the Lord without your heart being in it, but when God has all of your heart, He will have all of your wallet or pocketbook as a byproduct. This is why the gift you give because of your love for God is far more valuable than the gift by itself. God just wants our heart!
So now let’s take a look at what the Word of God has to say about another type of giving called “offerings.”
Now allow me to first reiterate a point we have already made regarding the difference between the tithe and offerings. Again, the word tithe means “tenth.” So it is the first tenth of our increase. So an offering would be what then? It would be anything we give to the Lord outside of that first 10% of our increase. So, as we have made the point of, you cannot give say 1% of your income and call it your “tithe” since the tithe literally means 10%. No, what you gave in that situation is an “offering” not your “tithe.”
Now the word “offering” in Webster’s dictionary is defined as “a sacrifice ceremonially offered as an act of worship.”
Notice the first word listed in our basic definition of an offering is— “sacrifice.” Although this is specifically referring to the offerings prescribed under the Old Covenant such as the burnt animal sacrifices, I believe that those offerings given under the Old Testament were, not only types and shadows of the Lord Jesus’ crucifixion, but they were also examples of what our financial offerings to the Lord should be like.
You see, God instituted in the law many different kinds of offerings such as peace offerings, freewill offerings, drink offerings, etc. These can all be used as types and shadows of our financial offerings given under the New Covenant. One thing that we can learn about offerings from an Old Testament perspective is that there were a lot of them, and each of them had a specific purpose. For example, the burnt offering (Leviticus 1:3-17) was for the purpose of general atonement of sin, and there were certain animals that could be used for this type of offering. There was even a specific way for burning these offerings (i.e. overnight). Then you have a peace offering (Leviticus chapter 3) and it was more of a festive offering. It likewise required specific types of animals. And the list could go on and one—the Grain Offering, the Sin Offering, the Trespass Offering, etc. With each of these offerings, they were given very specific details on what was considered an acceptable type of offering for each of these, what their purpose was, and how these offerings were to be prepared.
In all of these myriad of details, I learn one very invaluable lesson: There are different kinds of financial offerings that we can give and each one can have its own specific purpose. For example, one type of financial offering in our day might be considered a “partnership offering”—that is, identifying a ministry that you believe in and making a pledge/commitment to giving regularly, a consistent amount into that ministry. Another could be a “seed offering”—which would be a one-time financial gift into a person or ministry for the specific purpose of planting a seed for a needed or desired harvest in your own life. Others might be a “missions offering” (i.e. giving into either a local or overseas mission), “project offering” (i.e. giving into a special project like a building fund etc.). And this list likewise could go on and on. But my point is that like it was under the Old Covenant, there are many different types of “offerings” we can give and each should have its own specific purpose and intention.
Now back to the definition of the word “offering” that we saw: In Ephesians 5:2 the Apostle Paul says, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Friends, Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of what an offering should look like because He was the best and most perfect offering ever! Why? Because He was a sacrifice! God gave His only begotten Son! He did not give just one of His sons that He could spare! No, He gave His very best and that which cost Him something! Another reason Jesus was the perfect offering was because He was pure and He had no blemish. He was totally void of spot and wrinkle!
So, the thing we can learn from these two examples is how our offerings can be offerings in which God is well-pleased:
First of all, as a general rule, our offerings need to be our very best gifts—something that cost us something. King David said in First Chronicles 21:24 that he would not give to God something that cost Him nothing! This means that our offerings should be our very best gifts that are a sacrifice to us.
Secondly, Jesus being a pure and undefiled sacrifice shows us how our offerings should be given with a good heart and void of impure motives. Our offerings should be totally clean and perfect. These kinds of offerings are the ones in which God is “well-pleased.”
Now do not misunderstand me, not all of our offerings need to be extreme sacrifices—such as, giving all that we have—but they should not be simply our pocket change either! We just need to understand that when we give offerings to a ministry or our local church, we are giving unto the Lord! It is not man that we are giving to! Sure, we are giving into His works that consist of other people, but in actuality, we are giving to God.
So, my point is that if we are giving to God, our gifts need to be honorable. In other words, they need to be a gift that is worthy of being presented to a King.
Saints, if you really want God to be well-pleased with your offerings, then they need to be given in faith—for faith is what pleases God (Hebrews 11:6) And it does not require a whole lot of faith for most people to pull a one dollar bill out of their wallet and plunk it in the offering.
So, am I saying that it is wrong to just give a buck? Of course not! First of all, giving just a dollar might require a lot of faith for some people in tougher financial situations, but what I am saying is that in order for your gifts to be “more excellent,” they need to require faith on your part to give them.
You see, God does not focus on amounts; He focuses on percentages! Do you remember the story in Luke chapter 21 of the poor widow who gave two mites? Jesus said that she gave more than all the rest of the people giving their offerings. Why? Because He said that all the rest gave out of their abundance—that is, they gave what they could spare—but she gave all her livelihood! This poor widow did not give more than everyone else from an amount standpoint; she gave more than everyone from a percentage standpoint.
Saints, when Jesus looks at our offerings, He is looking from a percentage standpoint. Am I giving what I know I can spare or am I giving in faith? This is the question we should ask ourselves. And this is where Cain made his mistake. His offering was evidently not honoring God and required no faith on his part. Therefore, God did not accept it and we all know well what the end result of that story was.
Friends, let’s always make it a point that when we are giving an offering of some sort, to first understand that the Lord is ultimately who we are giving it to! Therefore, let’s make it a point to honor Him with that gift and give in faith! For with offerings like this, the Lord is well-pleased! Amen!
Now in the rest of Webster’s definition, he defines an offering as “a sacrifice ceremonially offered as an act of worship.” This shows us how when our offerings are given, they should always be offered as an act of worship.
How many times have we prepared an offering for the Lord and then, when offering time comes, we just plunk it in the collection box or offering plate without any thought? Sadly, we would have to say it has been more often than not. But, saints, what we need to understand is that when we give our offerings to the Lord it is to be a part of worship. In other words, our giving should be accompanied by a heart that is prostrate and in love with the Lord.
How do we do this? Well, this goes back to what we talked about earlier in this lesson on giving: giving cheerfully and with a heart of gratitude! I cannot reiterate to you how important this is to God. He does not need your offerings! He just wants all of you! So, when you give Him your offerings that come from a grateful heart He is well pleased. But when you just give an offering because you feel compelled to or simply out of habit without your heart being in it, then God is not impressed at all.
First Corinthians 13:3 tells us that we can give all our goods to the poor and give our body to be burned but if we are not motivated by love then it profits us nothing. My question was how can you give like this apart from love? And the answer is that you can just do these things out of duty or even greed. You might just feel obligated to give your money to the poor because you have somebody watching or you might just be willing to give of yourself because of the reward you will receive. These are wrong motivations! God wants us, as New Testament believers and full of His Spirit, to give out of our love for Him and His works, not because we will get something in return. No, He wants us to give, not because it will benefit us in any way, but just simply because we want to worship and honor Him through our giving! This is our high calling as born-again children of God—to worship the Lord with our offerings!
Now I want to share with you some of the benefits of this kind of sacrificial and worshipful giving:
Do you remember the story of God asking Abraham to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice to Him? Many do not understand the results of Abraham’s obedience in that situation. God was in covenant with Abraham. So, therefore, God needed a man to be willing to give his only begotten son (his very best) so that the law of sowing and reaping would be fulfilled by God giving His only begotten Son. God was legally obligated to bless man’s obedience according to the law of sowing and reaping. Amen!
So, what is my point, you ask? My point is that when we, as covenant people of God, give God our very best then that same law of sowing and reaping will take effect in our lives. In other words, when we give sacrificial offerings and offerings that are full of love then we will reap and they will produce after their own kind! It bears repeating that when Second Corinthians 9:6 says, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Whatever manner in which we give to God is the manner in which God will give back to us! So the blessing in giving loving and sacrificial offerings unto God is that God will give back to us loving and sacrificial offerings.
And how many of you know that if God gives like this then it is going to be some extremely lavish giving!?! I’m talking about some ship sinking, net breaking, and cup overflowing kind of blessings! It has been well said that you cannot out-give God and that is so true. So even if this message makes you feel uncomfortable because it stretches you, get out of the boat! Start living in the faith zone and watch God pour out so many blessings on you that you do not have room enough to contain them! Amen!
Now, I want us to move on to another type of giving that I consider to be just as important of a kind of giving as the prior three—that is, the giving of alms.
The giving of alms is commonly understood as being gifts given to the poor, and the reason I see this as being such an important type of giving is because of a powerful Scripture in the New Testament…
In Galatians chapter 2, the Apostle Paul was recounting his meeting of the other apostles in Jerusalem. In this passage of Scripture, he talked about how they gave him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship to the Gentiles. But Paul mentions something in verse 10 that has always stood out to me. He said, “They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.”
What a powerful verse, saints! You know, if you had just met another Christian and committed to him or her a huge responsibility, do you think that this statement would be the one thing that you would remind them of? To most believers, this wouldn’t have been atop the list of the most important charges they would give others. But to these apostles that had walked with Jesus, this was obviously a very important part of ministry.
Do you know why the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ made that admonition to Paul and Barnabas? It was because this was one of the focal points of Jesus’ ministry! Jesus gave so much to the poor that when Judas—the treasurer of Jesus’ ministry—got up from the table in the night time to go betray Jesus that the other disciples thought that he was probably told by Jesus to go give to the poor. Now for the other disciples to think that (especially in the night) shows us that this was obviously a regular practice of Jesus. In other words, Jesus was known for giving much to the poor at all hours of the day. And if this was Jesus’ way of operating, then this should be ours as well! Amen?
Now, oftentimes we read words in the Bible like “alms,” just seeing them through our religious goggles and never pursue their true meaning and significance.
The Greek word used for “alms” has a root in the word used for “mercy.” Therefore, this shows us how this type of giving is to be exhibited—in mercy. Now perhaps the best definition I have ever heard for mercy is “not getting what one does deserve.”
So, when we combine this definition with the root meaning for “alms” we see that when we give alms to the poor, we are not necessarily giving them what they deserve. I say this because sometimes people fail to meet other people’s needs because they don’t feel like the person deserves to have their needs met. Maybe the person did some stupid things to get themselves into that situation. Well, if the root meaning of the word “alms” is “mercy” then this does not mean that we are giving people what they deserve; we are giving them what they now need, regardless of whether they deserve it or not. In other words, we do not need to over scrutinize every poor person we help. No, we just are to see the need, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and do what seems good to do. That’s all.
The Webster’s dictionary defines “alms” as “something (money or food) given freely to relieve the poor.” So, we can see from these definitions that alms are gifts that we give to the poor as a way of showing mercy on them.
I love how the dictionary adds the word “freely” in its definition of alms. This shows us that our gifts to the poor are not to have any strings attached. In other words, in order for it to be alms it has to be given out of goodwill and without any service expected from the recipient.
You see, so many times when we give, it is because we are looking for something in return. Many give their tithes or offerings to their church because they feel like the church will recognize them for it by returning the favor in some way. Others give to their fellow believers because they feel like they can repay them down the road. Then there are those that give to ministries just to receive a tax exemption at the end of the year. And there are many other different selfish reasons why Christians give to God’s works.
So, this is why I feel like giving to the poor is one of the greatest ways of giving. The reason is because the poor cannot return the favor! They will not be able to pay you back. They usually do not have enough notoriety that they can praise you in front of your peers. Now sure you can give to the poor for the sake of being seen by men, but the poor themselves will not be able to offer you much in return. This is one of the reasons why I believe giving to the poor is the most rewarding type of giving.
You see, the best two grounds to sow into are those who will not (your enemies) and those who cannot (the poor) repay you for your gifts to them! The reason I can say this is because when you are in no way recompensed for your giving from man then God becomes your complete recompensor! We should never give because of what we will receive in return, but the Bible is very clear that we can expect God to reward us for giving to those who cannot return the favor.
Now notice how Webster’s definition of “alms” purposely makes the point to say that alms are not just referring to money. It says that it can be either food or money.
You see, a lot of times we do not feel very comfortable in our day and time giving money to a beggar on the street because many will use it on drugs or alcohol. That is where we can apply this definition. We can always offer to buy them a meal or some groceries. And usually you can tell real quickly what they really wanted when you make them that offer. So, yes, we should still try and show love to those that are obviously just wanting money so that they can buy drugs and alcohol. And the way we do this is by providing them with their basic necessities and not by contributing to their habits in giving them money.
I have talked to so many believers that seem offended about the subject of giving to the poor because in our nation we have those that are living off welfare and are not interested in working to support their families. And while I definitely understand and agree that those kinds of people are not what God had in mind, we still have those out there who need our help. The Word of God has a lot to say about giving to the poor whether we like it or not so we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bath water. We should actively be looking for those that are impoverished and that cannot help themselves.
So, let’s look at some Scriptures that talk about giving alms to the poor:
Even though the word “alms” was not used in the Old Testament, the principle was taught and practiced by the Jewish people. There were numerous admonitions given in the law that commanded them to remember the poor, the widows, etc. I want us to take a look at some in particular that are found in the Book of Proverbs…
Proverbs 22:9 says, “He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor.” A “generous eye” describes someone who is focused on being generous. Their whole mindset is: “how can I bless someone today that needs it?” In this Proverb, Solomon says that this person will be blessed. You see, sowing and reaping is simply a law! If you are focused on being a blessing, you will be blessed in return! Notice what Solomon goes on to say…“for (i.e. “this is the reason that person will be blessed”) he gives of his bread to the poor. When we purpose in our hearts to give of our substance to someone who needs it we will be blessed by the Lord in return. As Solomon says in Proverbs 19:17, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” When we show compassion on people in need, God sees it like we are lending our possessions to Him! And the rest of Proverbs 19:17 says, “and He (God) will pay back what he has given.” This is the reason why the person with a generous eye will be blessed! It is because God pays us back! So many think that if they give alms like this that they are losing their money but we need to renew our minds to this truth—If we give to those in need then God will not allow us to run out! Proverbs 28:27 says, “He who gives to the poor will not lack, but he who hides his eyes will have many curses.” It is just this simple! If we give to the poor there is no way we will lack! But, on the other hand, this proverb says that if we hide our eyes (i.e. “are not focused on being a blessing”) we will have many curses.
So not having this generous eye has negative consequences that we do not want. God is very serious about this! He has compassion on those who are in need and He uses His body to meet those needs. We need to get our focus off ourselves and onto those that have it worse than us. This will not only cause our needs to be met, but it will also create in our hearts joy unspeakable and full of glory!
So, these are the keys to living under God’s economy:
We need to see ourselves as the blessed of the Lord and possess this blessed mentality. As the Scriptures teach us—as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. So, we must believe this in our hearts about ourselves. Then this will develop in us a propensity to be givers because that’s what blessed people do—they give.
Then we learned four ways in which we can give to God—first-fruits, the tithe, offerings, and alms. These four types of giving are all the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God for all of us. But the main thing we learned about giving is that the thing that is of the most importance is the heart and attitude which we give with …
God wants us to give cheerfully and willingly! He wants us to have the heart to honor Him in light of all He has done for us!
This is how you and I can position ourselves to live according to His riches in glory—by knowing who we are and act accordingly. Amen.
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