Foundations Chapter 14

August 23, 2016 - 13 minutes read

CHAPTER FOURTEEN  Stewardship After accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, being baptized in the Holy Spirit and established in a Bible believing church, the most important commitment we make is probably in relation to our giving. I read somewhere that there are about 500 verses in the Bible on prayer and about 500 verses on faith, but about 1000 verses that have to do with giving. That in itself would seem to indicate the importance of giving.  decided to be up front with people about this principle. At the risk of being misunderstood and at the risk of making some people a little uncomfortable we decided to teach the principle of giving without apology. Over the years we have included regular times of teaching and preaching on stewardship, challenging our people to embrace the Biblical principle of giving.  Much of Jesus’ teaching had to do with the handling of money. Perhaps the reason the Bible has so much to say about this subject is that it reveals like nothing else what or who really controls our life. Say what we will, the way we earn, save, spend and give our money is often a pretty accurate indicator of our true priorities. So we believe it is important to know what the Bible teaches about the principle of giving.  The Tithe The Bible speaks of three kinds of giving, tithes, offerings, and alms. Sometimes these words are used interchangeably and the distinct meaning of each is missed. I want to try and outline the difference. First, lets consider the tithe. What is a tithe? A simple definition is this. A tithe is ten percent one’s income. Someone may say they tithe two percent or five percent. That is a contradiction of terms. They may indeed give two or five percent of their income but that’s not tithing. The word “tithe” means “one tenth part of.”  The Principles of Stewardship Biblical principles are for our blessing. I have come to believe that the reason many believers live in spiritual defeat is not because they don’t love and serve Jesus but rather because they fail to embrace and put into practice the principles God has given us to guide our lives. Most often it is due to ignorance, not having been taught what the Bible says or to having the principles taught as rules or commands that if not obeyed will jeopardize one’s salvation.  The first mention of the tithe is found in Genesis 14 where Abram paid a tithe to Melchizedek, the high priest of Salem. It is mentioned again in Genesis 28 where Jacob promised to give God a tenth of all he received. Both of these instances preceded the law that answers the objection some people raise about tithing. They argue that since we are under grace rather than law we are not required to tithe. While that may be true it doesn’t nullify the principle. Actually the tithe preceded the law and nowhere in the Bible is there any indication that it ended with the law.  Our salvation is not based on observance of all the principles outlined in the Bible. We are saved by grace through faith. However, we can be assured that disregarding those principles opens us to reaping undesirable consequences. Living by the principles of God’s Word is a choice. When we make wrong choices we set ourselves up to miss out on the blessings that God desires to release in our lives. The principle of giving is a case in point.  The tithe is given to support the local ministry. In Malachi 3:10 the Bible says that we are to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. I believe the storehouse in the Old Testament is equivalent to our local church today. The tithe brought into the storehouse was used to fund the local ministry, take care of the needy and support the Levites who served as the spiritual leaders among God’s people. Today we take this to mean everything that happens at the local level including the pastor’s support and various ministries for the extension of the Kingdom here on the home front. Therefore, we ask that people give their tithe to the general fund where they attend and receive ministry.  Many pastors are reluctant to speak about giving due to manipulative practices of unscrupulous radio or TV preachers making claims and promises that go beyond what the Bible says. However, there is a danger of reacting in fear and going to the other extreme and not teaching the principle at all. As a result the church often lacks the necessary funds to carry out it’s God given mission and the people miss out on the blessing of giving due to ignorance of what the Bible says about the principle of giving. Early in the development of Cornerstone we 32   Alms aren’t always gifts of money. In Acts 9:36 the Bible refers to alms deeds. This may include a helping hand, gifts of clothing, food, furniture or some other item. Jesus said even a cup of cold water given in His name would not be unnoticed. Like offerings alms is given above and beyond the tithe. To help facilitate the giving of alms the church has a compassion fund that people can use to give alms through. A person may desire to give alms to someone in need but wants to remain anonymous. Giving through the compassion fund is a way to do that.  Offerings Offerings are different in that there is no set percentage. Offerings are given above and beyond the tithe as one is moved in his heart. Like tithes, the practice of giving offerings was established before the law was given going back to Genesis 4 where Cain and Able gave offerings to God. Offerings were used to build the tabernacle and the temple. It’s interesting to note that they didn’t use the tithe to build facilities. Instead they shared the need and challenged the people to give. There was no compulsion. It wasn’t a tax. The people simply gave out of their own free will.  Cursed or Blessed? So what happens if people don’t give tithes and offerings? Rather than me telling you I’ll let the Bible speak for itself. In Malachi 3:8, it says, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’’ The answer: “in tithes and offerings. Not only were they neglecting the tithe and the offerings they were bringing were not acceptable. Instead of selecting the best of their flocks for sacrifice they chose to sacrifice the blind, crippled and diseased animals. God told them to try giving gifts like that to their governor and see how pleased he would be (Mal. 1:8).  In the case of the tabernacle people gave so much Moses had to ask them to stop because they had more than enough to complete the project. In general we believe that buildings are to be funded through sacrificial offerings rather than through the tithes. We have funded a number of major building projects this way where after a period of stewardship teaching people are given an opportunity to make a pledge indicating a sacrificial offering they are willing to give in a lump sum or over a one, two or three period. Realizing that giving ability varies the slogan we use is, “not equal giving but equal sacrifice.”  God said, “You are cursed with a curse for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you (Mal 3:7).” That sounds pretty strong doesn’t it? Actually, God seems to say that if I don’t tithe and give proper offerings I’m a thief. Is it any wonder then that God can’t bless us? I don’t know about you but that’s a place I don’t want to be.  We also fund our missions program through offerings. Each year we receive what we call a faith promise offering for cross-cultural missions. We ask everyone to fill out a card indicating what he or she believe God will release to them for missions over the following twelve months. It is not a pledge and no one is obligated to give the indicated amount. It is a statement of faith and the funds are given as God provides. The total amount of the annual faith promise offering becomes the missions budget for the year. Again, giving to missions is an offering given above and beyond the tithe.  In contrast God goes on to say, “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house. And test me now in this, says the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until there is no more need.” That sounds a lot better. Again, I don’t know about you but for me that’s where I want to be. For many years Sophia and I have tithed our income and given offerings and alms above and beyond our tithe. We haven’t become wealthy (at least not yet). Nevertheless, we continue to give by God’s grace and actually no longer even think of not doing it.  Alms (“Benevolence”) A third kind of giving involves is alms. We don’t use this term much today but it has to do with giving to the poor and needy. In Acts 10:4 we read of Cornelius who was recognized by God for the alms he gave to the poor. As a result he had a vision to send for Peter who came and shared the gospel and his whole household was saved. Alms is an act of righteousness. It really means compassion. Giving of alms is giving out of a heart of compassion to meet needs. 33

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