Tithes and Giving

Cheerful giving is born of love, and therefore it is a lover loving a lover and rejoicing in the communion. Giving is the language of loving; indeed, it has no other speech. “God so loved that He gave !” Love finds its very life in giving itself away. Its only pride in possession is the joy of surrender. If love has all things, it yet possesses nothing. – JH Jowett.

In the Old Testament, a tenth of all produce was mandated to be given to the Levites. An additional tithe collected every three years was to be given to the aliens, orphans and widows. On top of that, the Israelites were reminded to be generous to the needy. Deut 15:7-8.

In the New Testament, there is no such requirement mentioned but cheerful and generous giving is very much encouraged. 2 Cor 9:6-7. Generous giving also reveals our hearts of our gratitude towards God fully acknowledging whatever we have come from Him. We are actually encouraged to give everything of ourselves including our gifts and talents in the Kingdom of God. Matt 25:14-30. Jesus our Lord also required of us as faithful servants to care for His people. Matt 24:45-51; Matt 25:31-46.

Today, in our local church, the full time pastoral staff are like the Levites who deserve the giving of the church to support their needs. If the church has programs of helping the orphans, widows and aliens including missions, these programs have to be supported as well.

A call for tithes is a good guideline. But to impose a tithe and cause giving out of obligation and compulsion will not be cheerful giving and that is not encouraged at all in 2 Cor 9:6-7. On the other hand, generous giving to get good public opinion is also not encouraged. Matt 6:1-4. All giving should be an expression of love. Giving is a worship sacrifice pleasing to God. Heb 13:16.  Giving to the poor is a memorial offering to God. Acts 10.

Giving and anticipating 100 fold returns as preached in the prosperity gospel is not giving out of love but stoking greed in the hearts of the givers. The current scandals of so many prosperity gospel churches should tell us that there is really no blessing from God but mere manipulation of greedy hearts.

Instead of trusting the false teaching of these false prosperity gospel preachers, why not trust God’s promises for giving to the needy ?

God did promise blessings for those who give to the poor and needy cheerfully :
Psalms 41:1-3
Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him;
2 the LORD protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
3 The LORD sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health.
Isaiah 58: 7-11
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.

Prudence is a cardinal virtue. We must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Again, I want to remind that we should not give blindly. We should give to the indigent poor and NOT the indolent poor. 2 Thess 3:6-15. We should not give to programs that glorify man instead of God. As there are many abuses of church funds today, pray for discernment in giving. And pray for your church leaders to have genuine servant-hood leadership quality with right motive to serve the Lord and His people, and not gratify themselves.

Pause for a moment right away and think about this seriously : When we face Jesus our Lord one day and He asks about our motive for giving, will we be commended as faithful servant or rebuked as wicked servant ? Hopefully He separates us as sheep and not goats. Repent while we have time if we are going the wrong way.

Do We Eagerly Await the Return of our Lord Jesus ?

Matt 24: 42-51
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

If we are eagerly awaiting the return of our Lord Jesus, we will take His words above to heart and be the faithful servant. How we behave as servants now will manifest our true character and our true love for Him. Will we be found caring for God’s people; or will we join the world in making merry and indulging in dissipation, and even take advantage of God’s people for our own benefit ?
The same message is repeated in the parable of the sheep and goats. Matt 25:31-46. Do not take His warning lightly before it is too late for it concerns eternal life or death.
(I am referring to caring for the indigent poor and not the indolent poor among God’s people. St Paul had sharp rebuke for the indolent poor in our midst. 2 Thess 3:6-15. Many indolent poor among us, who are slothful and idle, know they can depend on the generosity of the hardworking brothers and sisters. They are really troublemakers in being disruptive and are busybodies as well. They will discredit or slander you when you are not willing to provide for their needs. In 2 Thess 3: 11 -15, St Paul gave us the instruction on how to deal with these indolent people.)

God’s Eternal Predestinating Purpose

The revealed Will of God is for His people to be conformed to His Son. ( Rom 8:28-29). God wants His people to bear all the attributes of a life filled by the Spirit of His Son – namely love, joy, peace, patience, kindnesss, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control – for all eternity. We were made in this original image of God but we have lost much of it.

When God said that everything works together for good, He really mean everything including suffering, trials and temptation. He will allow trials to test our patience and faithfulness, and opportunities to test our kindness and goodness. Eventually, suffering produce endurance and endurance in turn produces character. Heb 12:3-11; Rom 5:3-5.

How do we shine as light and bring glory to God ? It is the outward works that manifest these inner qualities which people will SEE and give glory to God. Matt 5:16.

It is a world of difference between doing some kind deeds and being a good person. The Priest and the Levite may do some good deeds at some time in life but the Samaritan is a good person. The distinction is important otherwise it may lead to wrong ideas according to CS Lewis in his excellent book Mere Christianity. (Pray I paraphrase correctly what he had said.)

The first wrong idea is provided we do the right thing, it does not matter whether we do it willingly or unwillingly, out of public opinion or not, grudgingly or cheerfully. The truth is that right action done for the wrong reason does not build up our inner quality or character. We may give a ton of praise and worship Jesus but our hearts may be far away from Him altogether. Our inner desires or personal fulfillment may sadly be the true motive for the worship rather than out of true love. Mark 7:6-7.

The second wrong idea is that we may think God wants us simply to obey a set of rules whereas He actually wants us to have certain character. (The Law is actually the blueprint of that Christ-like character or what some theologians call it the teacher of righteousness.) That was what Jesus our Lord meant when he said that one might NOT have committed adultery all his life but he had committed the sin already when he looked at a woman lustfully. It is not so much about the strict adherence to the commandments but rather about having the inner quality of love or fruit of the Spirit that fulfills the commandments.

Each time we make a moral choice – and we will make numerous such choices in our entire life – we are turning the central part of us either towards a heavenly creature or towards a hellish creature : either into a creature that is in harmony with God’s laws or a creature that is in harmony with the world, the flesh and the Devil. Now each time we examine ourselves of our action and thought, we move our central part towards the heavenly creature end and this self examination comes from the sanctifying work of the Spirit of Christ. Some call this process Sanctification. Now it will be disastrous to hear of false teaching that we can make choices towards the hellish creature part without even worrying about it. Then it is regrettable that the initial belief is merely a professing of faith and not a genuine repentant faith.

The third wrong idea is that all the good fruits of the Spirit is only good for this life and not beyond because all will be perfect in future. Yes, there may not be occasion for us to do good deeds in heaven but there will be every occasion for us to become that Spirit-filled person as a result of doing such acts NOW. It will be very strange for people not wanting to be sanctified now and yet they hope to be in Heaven in which all such sanctified people live.

It is still about the true circumcision of the heart….

Hard Times; Exciting Times

I am not in the business of fear mongering by writing my new book “The Coming Economic Flood”. God forbid ! We are exhorted to eagerly await the return of our Lord Jesus and to speed His return by living godly lives and to share the gospel to every corner of the earth. 2 Pet 3:11-12, Matt 24:14. But His return will be preceded by terrible times and judgments – the beginning of sorrows and the tribulation judgments. 2 Tim 3:1-5; Matt 24:4-8,21-22; Rev 5-16.
Jesus our Lord further exhorted us not to be weighed down by dissipation and cares of this world but to pray to escape the times and be watchful. Scripture also further exhorts us to live godly lives, and to encourage and build each other up as we see the Day drawing near. 1 Thess 5:11; Heb 10:24-25; 2 Pet 3:14.
We are pre warned as well to the heightened spiritual deception and apostasy in these last of the last days and to be on our guard as not to fall from our secure position. 2 Pet 3:17; Matt 24:24; 1 Tim 4:1-2.
Though the coming times will be hard and terrible, they are exciting at the same time for it means the return of our Lord Jesus is near. Luke 21:28,31. May our Lord come soon ! Hallelujah !