Would you rob God? Naturally, if we have a proper concept of exactly who we are relative to God, our first response is, “No! Of course not!” Yet, when we fail to give God his due, we are indeed robbing him1. In fact, God not only expects us to give back to him, but he expects the first and best of what he gives us, not what’s left at month’s end from our surplus2.
Our resources are generally divided into three parts. The first of those is our time. We are only here for a finite time3. Ask any schoolteacher who has spent the last week or two scrambling to wade through the paperwork of twelve generations, tediously long in-service training sessions required by the state and the district, and the chores of getting everything set up for all the little shavers coming in on Monday. That time goes by stupidly fast. (Don’t even get me started on the false notion that teachers only work 7-3, M-F. We’ll be here all year). We live in a time when people do business on the way to the business then leave to engage in other endless activities. God, however, hasn’t changed. He still wants time with us. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, valued time with his Father. He had a habit of getting up while it was still dark and going off to be alone and pray4. If Jesus, who is truly God and truly man, felt the need to go pray, I’m thinking we need the same even more.
Talents are our second resource. We hear very much about the Spiritual Gifts. You know: teaching, preaching, giving, prophecy, tongues, etc. Depending on whose list you run into, there are a dozen or more5. Did you know that there are also other, more “practical” Spiritual Gifts? Check out Exodus 31:1-6. There were two workmen who were specifically gifted with all kinds of crafty things. No, not being sneaky, things like metal working and gem cutting. Any gift God has given you can be used for his glory6. Find something you’re good at, and do it for the glory of God.
The last resource is the one that gets on everyone’s nerves, but giving of your money is the easiest one to do. God did something really odd in Malachi 3. He challenges us to test him by giving him a tithe then watching to see if he doesn’t out-give us in blessings. This whole tithing thing didn’t start with Moses and the Law. No, Abraham went to this interesting character named Melchizedek, which means “king of righteousness,” in a city that later became Jerusalem to give ten percent of his wealth. In response, Melchizedek, who was both a king and a priest of God, served Abraham bread and wine7.
Incidentally, a tithe under the law wasn’t ten percent. Although the word “tithe” does technically mean ten percent, there was more than one tithe. There was a yearly tithe of the first fruits to the Levites, who in turn had to give a tenth of that to the priests. Then there was a tenth that was to be brought to Jerusalem for a celebration. Finally, there was an every third year tithe to throw a party for the poor and the Levites. There are some sources that suggest the second and third of those tithes could be overlapping8. Either way, that’s 20-23% of your yearly earnings. Ten percent went to God, ten percent for celebration, and perhaps 3.33% for the poor.
Before you start busting out your calculator to figure out what 23.33% of your income is, remember that God wants a cheerful giver9 more than a technically accurate one10. In fact, giving grudgingly or dishonestly can be fatal. Consider the case of Ananias and Sapphira who tried to be like everyone else by selling land and giving money to the church. Only they cheated and held part back while announcing they were in fact giving the entire amount. God dealt with them in a manner that explained his attitude toward dishonesty11. Their error was not keeping part of the money back, but rather lying about having given the whole amount.
Ultimately, we must remember that all good gifts come from God12. When we give to God, we’re simply returning what he let us use.
1 Malachi 3:8-10
2 Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26, Numbers 18:12, Deuteronomy 26:10, Nehemiah 10:35, Proverbs 3:9
3 Psalm 103:14-16
4 Mark 1:35
5 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, http://cf.blb.org/Search/Dictionary/viewTopic.cfm?TopicList=15000&Topic=Spiritual+Gifts&DictID=
6 Romans 12:11, Ephesians 6:7, Colossians 3:23
7 Genesis 14
9 2 Corinthians 9:7
10 Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42
11 Acts 5:1-11
12 James 1:17