10 March, 2019
Pastor Andrew Miller
In the song we just sang, we sang, ‘Lord, I give you my heart, I give you my soul, I live for you alone’. They’re great words of devotion but what do we really mean by them? Let’s start with a quiz.
- It means, in giving our heart, we are all to become organ donors
- It means, in giving away our soul, we are to become soulless zombies
- It means, in living for God alone, we are to shun all other relationships and live as hermits for God.
- It means that we should try hard to live a good life for God but not apply giving everything to Him too literally because then we wouldn’t have anything left for ourselves.
- None of the above.
I hope you picked ‘E’ because A to D are all wrong. We can find a very good answer to this question of what it means to give our heart, soul and lives to God, in Jesus’ extraordinary teaching in Matthew 5. It’s in Matthew 5 that we find the Sermon on the Mount, which starts with what we call the Beatitudes (“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” etc Mat 5:3). And from there, Jesus goes on to give some fundamental Christian teaching.
Jesus also taught,
It’s sometimes said that when Jesus gave this teaching, He was raising the bar. ‘The Old Testament set one moral standard, the New Testament introduces a higher moral standard in Christ.’ It might appear this way, but this is not actually true. God’s moral perfection – His standards for love – don’t change.
The standards that Jesus taught in Matthew 5 weren’t new. They were already there in the Old Testament but they had been lost or forgotten or suppressed through the oral law handed down from generation to generation. Jesus simply restored the law to its original design. That’s why Jesus said that he wasn’t coming to abolish the law but to fulfil it. (Matthew 5:17)
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law had focussed so much on outward obedience to the law, that they had forgotten about the spirit of the law and the God of the law. This is why they had introduced so many petty rules about how to eat and wash and behave, to the extent that it actually became ungodly. This is why they were so incensed when Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. But it was always right to heal on the Sabbath. It was always wrong to hate others. With His teaching, Jesus brings us back to God’s intentions for godly living. Jesus teaches us and shows us what it really means to give our hearts, souls and lives to God.
There is one other area which this giving of ourselves applies to and that’s our money. For those who are new to our church, I rarely speak on money. I fact, I speak so infrequently on money and financial giving that I’ve probably been irresponsible on the matter. But at this time in the life of our church, I think it’s a very good time for us to look again at what God teaches about money and giving.
Simply put, the Bible teaches that we are to tithe our income. That is, we are to give 10% of what we earn to the church. For those who are new to church or new to the faith, that might come as a shock. I grew up in a church which never taught about tithing so even as a long-term Christian, when I first learned about tithing, I was like ‘Woah!’. 10% seemed like such a big hit. But as I learned more about tithing, I came to understand that it is a wonderful part of Christian worship.
And that’s what tithing is. It’s an act of worship. It is an expression of your love for and trust in God. Tithing is NOT primarily about money. It’s about trusting and loving God with all of your heart, all of your soul and all of your life.
There are two aspects to tithing. The first is a heart matter: worship. We heard about this two weeks ago when Pastor Mike spoke about Cain and Abel’s offering in Genesis 4. Their offering was an act of worship – acceptable in Able’s case, and unacceptable in Cain’s. Tithing reflects a heart of worship before God. We see this when Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, the godly priest and King of Salem in Genesis 14.
The second aspect to tithing is a practical matter: sustaining the house of God.
That’s why even today, we continue to tithe, firstly as an act of worship; and secondly as a practical matter of supporting the church and its mission.
At MIC, we have taken a very big, necessary and good step of taking on a full-time pastor from next month. We need to honor the tithe and keep it holy to the Lord at all times, and especially at this time in our church’s life. We must be faithful in tithing to the church. If we want to give to people or charities outside of the church, that’s fine, but that should be done with gifts above and beyond the tithe. The tithe is holy to the Lord and is to be brought into the house of the Lord.
When the Israelites failed to do this, they were chastised for it in very strong terms.
When it came to New Testament times and Jesus taught about tithing, he seemed to raise the bar, or more specifically, put it in its proper context. He said,
Our worship of God can’t be selective or half-hearted. “Lord, I’ll give you my heart, but not my time. I’ll give you my time but not my money. I’ll give you my money but I won’t extend mercy.” That’s not the Christian life.
One of the greatest concerns I have for us as Christians and for the church in general is that we’re very quick and passionate in asking God to bless us, asking God to heal us, asking God to forgive us, asking God to equip us, asking God to use us – yet we so easily hold back from God in the process, and that holding back is often financial.
So we are called to tithe, but we don’t give to receive blessing. We don’t give so that we can get more back! That doesn’t reflect a heart of worship.
But God does promise to bless those who are faithful in giving their money, just as He promises to bless those who give of their time and the effort and their heart.
God knows the motives of our hearts and he can’t be fooled, manipulated or mocked.
- We give because we love God.
- We give because we trust God.
- We give because God first gave to us.
- We give because it’s the right thing to do.
And we know that God will provide for us and bless us. God invites us to try this. God even invites us to test Him on the matter.
As I close, you might be asking yourself, “If I don’t tithe or give my money to the church, will God love me any less?”
Wrong question. The right question is, “If I don’t tithe – or at least commit to starting a spiritual journey towards tithing – will I love God any less?”