Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving an offering in the Old Testament

After my last series of posts on tithing I received a number of comments on facebook and emails complaining that I didn't handle the subject fairly.  "Tithing didn't go away just because of Jesus." "Jesus tithed." "You are teaching a demonic thing that will rob God of what is properly His"

So I decided to revisit the issue.  As I pointed out before, in Christ, we don't give a tithe to the church.  Now I realize that most churches call it tithing.  Most Christians call it tithing.  But even though that is what they call it, that isn't what they are doing.  I also know that many Christians who could give more, don't, because they feel that 10% is what God has prescribed.  By the same token, some Christians struggle to get by with their most basic needs because their "pastors" have yoked and shamed them into giving 10% which for some may be really difficult.

Did tithing go away with the new covenant of Christ?  I would submit yes, see previous posts for explanation.  So is there a Biblical precedent for something that would equate to the type of giving we do today when we give an offering to our church?  Yes, yes there is.

Bibles open to Exodus 25:1-9.

The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. 3 And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, 4 blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, 5 tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, 6 oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 7 onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. 8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.

God instructs Moses to deliver a message from Him to Israel.  The word was to:  Take a contribution (an offering) up from Israel to be given to the Lord.  The guidelines:
- The contribution given should be "from every man whose heart moves him"
- It could be gold, silver, bronze, blue and purple scarlet yarns, fine twined linen, goat's hair, tanned rams' skins, goatskins, acacia wood, oil for the lamps of the Tabernacle, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones, or stones for setting the ephod and breastplate.

So what each man purposed in his heart to give he could do so and it could be any of the following.  Now, let's set this passage up so that we know the context.  God is instructing Israel on how He wants the Temple constructed.  The reason that He gives such specific detail as to WHAT can be given was because God had a very intentional design and reason in all that He used to make the Tabernacle.  That's a whole other blog post.

But what was the contribution being given to?  The tabernacle, the temple, the place of worship.  What would we call such a place today?  Perhaps, the church.  That being the church in the physical building sense of course.

Where as the tithe that God did require from Israel was used for the running of a Nation that was under a theocracy, here we see God calling for a contribution to come from the heart.  Whatever anyone wants to give, however they want to give, and only if they want to give.

Sounds a lot like the principle that Paul gave for lays out for giving in 2 Corinthians 9:7 doesn't it?

God encourages, and some commentators even have said that here God commands, that the people give, but what does He not do?  He does not set a specific amount.

So what happens?  Exodus 35:1-36:7

Moses relays this message from the Lord to the people.  He tells them that God has said for everyone who is of a "generous heart" (Exodus 35:5), let them bring the Lord's contribution.  No yoke of a percentage fixed to be given.  Now, what did the people do with this information?

Scripture says, that the people "left the presence of Moses" (Exodus 35:20) and "everyone whose heart stirred him" whose "spirit moved him" brought the Lord's contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments (Exodus 35:21).  Exodus 35:22 says that every one who came brought an "offering" of gold to the Lord (Exodus 35:22).  Verse 30 calls what they were bringing a "freewill offering" (Exodus 35:30).  Everyone who "could" bring a contribution, did so (Exodus 35:24).

Are we noticing a trend here?  We should be!  In recording this account Moses goes to great length to record that all the contributions were to be given as a free will offering.

Exodus 35:5, 21-29 - Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze;  21 And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. 22 So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord. 23 And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them. 24 Everyone who couldwhose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. 27 And the leaders brought onyx stones and stones to be set, for the ephod and for the breastpiece, 28 and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. 29 All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.
God called for an offering, not a tithe.  The people, in kind, responded by giving freely of their own desire.  The money and other items they gave was given, not to the running of the Nation of Israel, but to the construction of the sanctuary.  The place of worship.

They gave because they wanted to. 

Immediately you may be thinking, but what if they don't want to give at all.  Well, to that I would say there is probably a deeper heart problem at play than simply an unwillingness to give.

I was once told by a Pastor that he knows that the 10% tithe was an Old Covenant practice but he teaches it as a New Covenant one so that people will give and keep the church running and his salary coming in.  Shameful.  Shameful.  Sinful.  Pastors, please here me.  There is no reason to not trust God to provide! 

So the people gave freely, and what happened?  Well, the Bible says that they were giving so much that God had to tell Moses to ask them to STOP!  (Exodus 36:3-7)  What a great problem to have!  Can you imagine your Pastor standing before you and saying, "Folks, we appreciate your faithful giving around here as it obviously helps us accomplish our God-given mission as a church, but for the time we have far more than we need so please stop giving for a time and redirect your funds elsewhere."  I don't think I can even picture that happening!

Now, I don't want to make something where there is nothing here so let me be clear that I am not saying that teaching rightly about giving will bring about the same exact results... Nope, we should teach rightly because it honors the Lord to do so (2 Timothy 2:15).

Folks, as a member of your church you should be giving and giving faithfully.  But you should not think that the Bible says to you that you MUST give 10% or else your money is cursed.  Nor should you entertain the superstitious notion that giving makes your money "more blessed".   What you should do is trust that God knows your needs.  He knows and He cares for you (Psalm 55:22, Luke 12:4-7, 1 Peter 5:7).  He will provide.  Follow after Christ and trust Him (Luke 9:23-27).  Seek first GOD and HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS and trust all else to His sure and strong Right Hand (Matthew 6:25-34)

Regardless of what He ordains for your life, wealth or poverty, etc... trust in Him.

The following are examples of how NOT to teach on giving in the church!

We are to give: 1) Generously - (2 Cor 9:6) But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. We need to walk the way Jesus walked (1 John 2:6) and that would be giving generously as He did (John 3:16). All our money belongs to God anyway and our giving shows the level of trust we have in God to supply all our needs. But what about if you don’t have much to give? The Bible teaches that we are to give according to our ability (Acts 11:29) but it also models sacrificial giving such as the widow who gave her last two mites (Mark 12:41-43; 2 Sam. 24:24; 2 Cor. 8:1-3). God gave sacrificially through Christ and true love is always displayed in it’s sacrificial nature.

2) Cheerfully - (2 Cor 9:7) So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. Did you know the word for “cheerful” in this verse is from the Greek word “hilaros” from where we get our English word “hilarious”? That means when we drop that check in the plate or send that special offering to that missionary, we are to do it not grudgingly or by compulsion but with joy in the Lord!

I pray this has been helpful to you and that these principles guide you as you seek the grace of God to be good stewards of what He's provided you with (money, talents, etc) (1 Cor. 4:1-2).

No comments:

Post a Comment