Tithes and Offerings

Introduction

The support for the work of building God's kingdom has always fallen on individuals. The work that needs done can take many forms - praying, fasting, witnessing, serving, teaching, making disciples, preaching, evangelizing, et cetera. As Christians, we may be called to do one or more of these things at any time. Many of these ministries require monetary support to survive. This building, for example, has a mortgage and utility expenses. The pastor has living expenses. For comfort, a certain amount of upkeep and maintenance must be performed.

The Bible gives clear instruction that each Christian is to do an equal share in providing such support. This process is what is known as giving our tithes to God's work. Beyond that, God accepts offerings according to the ability of the person to give. These aren't specifically commanded but are free-will gifts. As we will see in scripture, although everything in the universe is God's, the only part of what He has provided to us that He considers to be His is the tithe. We are to give it back to His work. We will briefly discuss other precepts from the Old Testament after covering this one in detail.

Be clear that God has kept his Church through good and bad times. It survived the Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, and is surviving the current New Age assault as well. However, there is a special blessing God set out for those who support His work. Different denominations seem to do better than others in raising support. Smaller independent churches face a harder path, with little recourse for survival other than their members.

The pastor feels that most, if not all, regular members of the church are tithing. I am not sure how he knows that. I doubt if he knows what my income is, for example. But that is still encouraging. Most denominations aren't coming close to such a high level of support. Yet, he feels the need for a couple of messages on finances to be presented. These may repeat a lot of well known verses to those who have been in Christ and the Word for a long time. Please bear with us. For those who don't know how or what to give to God, perhaps this will help. For those who are having a struggle doing what God has commanded, perhaps this message will give encouragement.

We will have a handout, probably next week, which will give practical information about managing finances. It is oriented primarily to the kids who are just starting out. However, perhaps some more established families may find some of the information useful as well. It isn't my intention to cover it in any detail, it is merely a reference. However, when we meet again in two weeks I will try to answer any questions about it either during the service or after the service. Please don't take offense at anything in it. As I said, it was intentionally written in a broad based manner since my target audience at the time I wrote it didn't even have regular jobs yet and I wanted to give information to help them with whatever route they eventually chose to follow.

Tithe - What does it mean

A tithe is literally a tenth part. With this method of supporting God's kingdom, God has provided a method for all His children to be equal. Whether you make a lot of money or whether you make little, God asks exactly the same. If you make $1,000,000 per year (or win a lottery), $100,000 of it is God's. If you make $100 a year, $10 of it is God's. God treats each of these two sample individual's gifts as exactly the same and worthy of exactly the same blessing on their life. Man, and many televangelists (to pick on an easy target group) get that twisted and tend to look at and covet the richer folks. God is equally content and will bless and use the $10 gift and the $100,000 gift.

The biggest problem tends to occur at either end of the spectrum. For those who make lots of money, it is easier to say ``The church doesn't really need $100,000 this year. I didn't like what they did with it last year. The preacher is just making too much... grumble, grumble, grumble.'' They spend it or a substantial fraction of it on themselves and their pleasure. For those who are destitute, it is easy to say ``$10 won't make any difference in the long run to the church, but it will feed my family today.'' That isn't to say there aren't problems at all levels, but these two problems represent the typical attitudes everyone will face who tries to obey the law.

Tithing Before the Law

So let's discuss a bit about the historical precedents in tithing. How many people know when the first tithing was done? Tithing was practiced 430 years before the laws concerning tithing were established under the Levitical priesthood.

There are two scriptural references to tithing in this time period. The first is found in Gen. 14:20. Starting in 14:18, we see that after Abram's victory against Chedorlaomer (his only battle) which was fought to rescue Lot, he paid tithes to Melchizedek. This Gentile was king of Salem which is the former name for Jerusalem. He was also declared to be priest of the most high God. Melchizedek, following the scripture in Hebrews is a type of Christ. The nature of his priesthood is described (Ps. 110; Heb. 5:10, 6:20, 7:1-28). Christ is said to follow his order since he could not qualify as an priest after the order of Aaron.

Gen. 14:18-20

14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.

14:19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:

14:20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

After Melchizedek brings out what in the New Testament would be communion elements and blesses Abram and God, Abram gives tithes of the spoils of the battle to him. That reference is the classical early reference to tithing. Can anyone name the second? The second instance is Jacob. This is recorded in:

Gen. 28:20-22

28:20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,

28:21 So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:

28:22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

It should be noted that this is the only recorded vow before the law of Moses. In both cases, the tithe (or tenth part) was given to God or God's priests. It isn't recorded who else may have tithed in the Old Testament before the Law was given to Moses. But you should consider both Abram and Jacob and the blessings God bestowed on them. The Bible doesn't say how rich Abram was, but it is clear that the land wasn't able to sustain both he and Lot together. They had to separate so their flocks could survive. When we get to the last section on promised blessings of tithing with a right heart, think back on the patriarchs of the Old Testament.

Tithing Under the Law

Once the Levitical priesthood was established, God set up a series of laws concerning providing for the priesthood. In addition, there were other commanded offerings to be made for particular reasons and feasts of celebration and remembrance to be made.

First Tithe

Commanded

It was commanded in:

Leviticus 27:30:

And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD.

Purposes

It was for the Levites as noted in:

Numbers 18:21-24

18:21 And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.

18:22 Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.

18:23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance.

18:24 But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.

There was a co-dependence here. The people were dependent on the Levites to do the work of ministering in the tabernacle at risk of death. The Levites were dependent on the people for their sustenance. Neither relationship is as strict in the New Testament church as it was then. We are dependent on Jesus for life and we come in any state to the churches of this country to be saved initially. Pastors do have inheritances today, so aren't solely dependent on the church members. However, inheritances are once in a life time events and are rarely sufficient to meet the need. The pastors still depend on the church for support.

One primary difference is that an entire tribe was devoted to ministering to the tabernacle. Only certain of these men were actually priests. The whole tribe was supported, and a tithe on the tithe went to the priests.

Num. 18:26

18:26 Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.

18:27 And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshing floor, and as the fulness of the wine press.

18:28 Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD'S heave offering to Aaron the priest.

Other scriptures relating to this are in Neh. 10:37 and Neh. 12:44. Most churches today do well to support their pastors. This is sadly due to lack of support from the church members in the form of tithes and offerings. It would be better if the churches today could have larger paid staffs who could dedicate all of their working hours to God's work rather than doing God's work on a part time basis and working full time.

Two other purposes mentioned are to supply God's house in Mal. 3:10 and to honor God in Pr. 3:9. Both of these Scriptures are commands with promises attached. We will talk about the promises portion at the end of this message, but here is the applicable part for now.

Mal. 3:10; Pr. 3:9

3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

3:9 Honor the LORD with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase:

The purpose was to provide meat for God's house and to honor the Lord. To put His work first by giving Him the first fruits of all of the increase you get.

When Brought

The tithe was brought yearly originally, along with all other offerings for the feast. By Jesus time, it was customary to bring tithes weekly to the synagogue.

Deut. 12:5-7

12:5 But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come:

12:6 And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks:

12:7 And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee.

Today, most churches would teach that you should try to bring the tithes to the church weekly. I don't feel it is as important that you tithe weekly as that you tithe consistently at whatever interval works for you. If you can't remember income you have received more than a week, then perhaps you need to tithe weekly. If you get the bulk of your income once per month, and prefer to just write one check, I think that is O.K. as well. The important thing is to do it.

Belonged to God, Fine for Late Payment, and Couldn't be Exchanged

Some other scriptures give more insight about tithes and how they should be handled. Continuing:

Lev. 27:30-34

27:30 And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD.

27:31 And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof.

27:32 And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.

27:33 He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it: and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.

27:34 These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses for the children of Israel in mount Sinai.

The first tithe was the Lords. If you chose not to pay it for some reason, there was a 20% fine levied in addition to the tithe itself. If you tried to exchange an item that was to be tithed for another (better or worse), both belonged to God. This later section related mostly to first fruits of produce and animals, but could perhaps have some application today if God directs you to give a particular thing as part of your tithe and you try to substitute. The 20% fine was quite large. God gave man a method of temporarily surviving difficult times by holding back tithes. However, that came at a steep price.

The people under the Law grew up under the Law and never really had a time when they didn't know about their duties to tithe. In today's Christian setting, what are new believers to do if they haven't paid tithes on all their income their life long. Most pastors don't address this issue from the pulpit. And I am not standing in for the pastor and giving you his words in this message. Most pastors with a true heart for God simply have a hard time talking about tithing at all. Yet the fact remains that 10% of what you earn belongs to God. If you have used it for your own purposes before coming to Christ, a strong case can be made that you still owe God His tithes + 20%. If you are in this situation, I ask you to seek out God's will for you. Search out the scriptures yourself.

If you take the city of Casper and its surrounding area and use rounded off numbers for the population and per capita income from Wikipedia, a population of 50,000 people and a per capita income of 20,000 should yield $100,000,000 per year for His work just from Casper when only considering tithes. Clearly, everyone isn't a Christian, but that isn't God's fault. Do the donations to the churches per year even approach the high seventh significant digit of that, let alone the eighth or ninth. Again. Search your hearts as to what you should do about your life before coming to Christ and what you should be doing today.

The only other major question about this tithe is what do you tithe on? I feel that from scripture, the command is to tithe on gross income which would be the equivalent of the harvest in biblical times. The command, for example, was that every 10th animal which passed under the rod belonged to God. The command wasn't to raise the herd, sell it for slaughter, deduct expenses for grazing fees, transportation, butchering, storage, insurance, salary for herders, et cetera, and tithe on the resulting net income.

This is another thing that must be searched out individually. Pray about it and see what God tells you. God didn't establish the U.S. Governments federal withholding tax structure, nor lay down F.I.C.A. as a requirement. Yet people routinely pay their tithes on net income after these items have been removed. I fear that many today pay tithes on their net income, thinking they are meeting God's requirement, and are still out of God's will concerning their finances.

Second Tithe

The above tithe is the most commonly known of the three tithes mentioned in scripture. The other two were equally important to the Law. The second tithe is described in:

Deut. 14:22-26

14:22 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.

14:23 And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.

14:24 And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:

14:25 Then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose:

14:26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,

This tithe was not the tithe which went to the Levites. The second tithe was dedicated to God and used by the family so that they would have no excuse in not attending feasts of God at the national gatherings. This was a yearly allocation, just like the first tithe. It didn't count in giving to others since the giver used it himself. There were a good many feasts and they took a significant amount of time. More on this later.

What could fall under the equivalent of this tithe today? I feel that some examples could be the support of the physical plant of the church, providing transportation to and from church, providing food for meals, et cetera. I can assure you that I am way behind in dedicating 10% of my income to enable me to better serve God today. It might get close if you count in the cost of my vehicles and gas in getting to and from services, but I would bet I'm still short here.

Third Tithe

Deut. 14:27-29

14:27 And the Levite that is within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.

14:28 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:

14:29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.

The third tithe was only collected once every three years. This made an effective 3 1/3 % additional tithe each year. It was distributed locally throughout the 3 years it covered for 4 classes of people. These included the Levites, the strangers, the fatherless or orphans, and the widows. Since the church has gotten out of the welfare business and allowed the government to take over in the early part of this century, we really don't have a place at this exact time for this sort of tithe. But government is cutting back all the time and the time may soon come when this should be introduced.

Donations to benevolence or other charitable organizations which help the needy may be the equivalent of this tithe today since few churches have established programs to help the needy currently. Like the second tithe, however, we are way behind on this level of giving.

Offerings

There were many offerings which were also made to God in addition to the tithes specified above. As with the tithes, many offerings varied based on the financial status of the people. If you were rich, a larger offering was required. If you were poor, a smaller offering was permitted. In any case, the offering had the exact same effect before God.

For details, discuss p. 152.

As Christians today, many have trouble just paying their normal tithe to say nothing of a possible second tithe or third tithe. For most, offerings above and beyond the tithes are not even considered unless we get something out of it. People will give special offerings so particular things can happen in the church. Perhaps buying new pews, new carpet, painting, or some other thing that will increase their pleasure. Offerings which are solely for God are harder. Some of these items may fall under the second tithe. That is between you and God.

Feasts

There were 3 yearly feasts for males: The Feast of Unleavened Bread (which included the Feast of Passover and First fruits held at the same time), the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Other feasts included the weekly sabbath, the Feast of Trumpets, and the Day of Atonement. (p. 114 details)

In addition, the Jews celebrated 8 other feasts. The septennial or sabbatical feast which occurred every 7 years, the feast of the new moon, the feast of Purim, the feast of dedication or restoration of the temple, the feast of branches, the feast of the death of Nicanor, the feast for the discovery of the sacred fire, and the feast of carrying wood to the tabernacle. (p. 144-4).

Since we aren't Jewish, and aren't under the Law, we don't have to keep these feasts, but we should ask ourselves what we as Christians do today to be close to each other and God in similar settings. Christians keep communion as a remembrance of Christ's sacrifice before and on the Cross.

Tithing and Christ's Teaching

One of the first comments that people who don't support God's work with tithing make is that it was for the Old Testament. Here are some comments from Christ.

Mt. 23:23; Lu. 18:10-14; Mt. 5:20; Lu. 10:2-9

23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

18:10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

18:13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

10:2 Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.

10:3 Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.

10:4 Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.

10:5 And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.

10:6 And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.

10:7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.

10:8 And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:

10:9And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

It is clear that Christ supported the tithe, and continued the tradition in speaking of those who labor for the kingdom of God. They are worthy of their hire.

Tithing and Paul's Teaching

Paul continued the principles of supporting the ministry of God as can be found in these scriptures.

1 Cor. 9:7-14, 16:1-2; Gal. 6:6

9:7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

9:8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?

9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?

9:10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

9:11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

9:12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

9:13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?

9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.

16:2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

Gal. 6:6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

Results of Disobedience and Obedience

Pr. 3:9-10; Mal. 3:7-14

3:9 Honor the LORD with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase:

3:10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

3:7 Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?

3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

3:9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

3:11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.

3:12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.

3:13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?

3:14 Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?

You can't get much stronger words about tithing than those found in Malachi. As with so many of God's rebukes to His children, there are associated promises. And what promises could be better than these.

I would like to conclude with a testimony time. God has truly blessed me and my family. I have always tithed, back as far as I can remember and have tried to give offerings above and beyond the tithe. I haven't used another 10% to allow me to go to church regularly and there haven't been many feast opportunities. I also can't say that I have given another 3 1/3% per year to benevolence or the equivalent of helping the orphans or widows. So there may still be areas I need to work on. The blessings haven't necessarily been monetary - although compared to many countries there are few in America or the rest of the developed world that wouldn't be counted among the rich in God's eyes. But our family has enjoyed basically good health, we've had steady work, and we've always had enough to pay the bills and have some left over to spend on pleasure.

I praise the Lord for His faithfulness to those who are faithful to Him, and pray that I will never fail Him in handling my finances. It is sometimes hard to know what to do, when there is so much you could do. I pray we will each hear more clearly God's leading in our lives. I haven't had the hardships that many have had. My dad was unemployed from time to time as the local Ford garage changed hands, but we always had provision and times certainly weren't as tough as those faced by the majority of the world today. I haven't been unemployed yet, and God has kept giving blessings even when there were oil slumps and less money coming in than previously. He has tried to help me other times with financial matters and I didn't listen and got burned. Hopefully, my hearing will improve with age.

Would anyone else like to share? - First session closes - what follows is the next Sunday night's commentary.

Recap

First, I will give a very brief recap of our last session. I have a couple of additional thoughts to share on some items that were mentioned.

What is Tithing?

As we learned last week, Israelis were expected to give 10% of their increase each year to God. This went to the Levites, and a 10% tithe of this amount went to the priesthood. In their agrarian economy, giving every 10th bushel the field produced or every 10th calf produced to God is roughly the equivalent of tithing on our gross income today.

In addition, a second 10% was expected to be set aside by each family to provide the means to attend and supply the feasts. Finally, a third 10% was collected each 3 years, making a 3 1/3% yearly tax to support foreigners, fatherless, widows, and Levites as a form of local welfare.

What Do We Tithe On?

At least one item other than direct wages was mentioned that was tithed on last week. I thought of a few others and I thought I would lay out my guidelines on a few of them.

IRS Refunds

The government computes how much money you owe based on government taxable income and government approved expenses. A W-4 is used to tell how much to remove from each paycheck since the government doesn't trust you to be able to write a single check once per year. It also knows that if people really started writing those single large checks once each year there might be another tea party in the bay. Anyway, at the end of the year your estimate is compared with your actual income and expenses via the income tax computation process and you see how much more you owe or how much you get back.

If you get money back, you are simply getting back part of the interest free loan you gave the government over the course of the last year. It is not new income to you. In the unlikely event that somehow you get back more than your total expenses of all kinds then I suppose that there might be some justification in paying tithes on any truly fresh income the refund brings. I suspect that is an unlikely scenario although if you have many kids and buy a new house or something the credits might push you to a situation where you actually do have a negative tax rate that would trigger tithes on the refund.

Insurance Payments

All insurance payments you receive also fall into the general category of paying for your expenses so you don't have to. It isn't really income to you. In the unlikely event that you are over insured by competing companies who by some stretch of the imagination don't talk to each other and you end up getting more back on a loss than your expense in the loss, you should reimburse the insurance companies for any excess. If the insurance company pays the doctor, car repair, et cetera directly, then this isn't an issue at all. This only would be a question if the money is coming through you.

For life insurance, where your beneficiary gets a set amount if you die before your actuarial time, your beneficiary may owe tithes on the face value of the policy amount. That would be something to talk to God directly about. But it seems to fit well into the gross income type of discussion we had last time.

Social Security

All social security benefits come from forced tax collections from your paycheck and an equivalent tax collection from your employer. Therefore, I feel that it is appropriate to pay tithes on 1/2 of your social security payment (which came from your employer) until such time as all of the money you directly paid into the system has been paid back. Until that occurs, you are just recovering the money the government has taken from you. When that is complete, then you should pay tithes on all of the payment since it now represents new income that you have not already paid tithes on. For us young folks, this may be irrelevant, but I thought I'd mention it.

Unemployment / Strike Benefits

Strike benefits in excess of what you have paid into the union's strike fund would be subject to tithes.

Since unemployment taxes are collected by the government from employers based on total wages / employees, all unemployment benefits would be subject to tithes.

Penalties

Also, we reviewed the penalty for not paying tithes. If tithes aren't paid, then an additional 20% is added to the amount due. The question was raised about what happens if you are saved late in life and haven't paid your tithes for many years. I want to present the following discussion topic and see what you think.

Assume that for a period of 20 years, an employee has defrauded the company for which he works. During that time, he has cheated them out of $20,000 that he has spent for his own pleasure and no longer has. God touches his heart and he is saved.

His sins are forgiven. What should happen to the $20,000? How many feel that the man should pay back the $20,000 as soon as he is able? How many think the man can just go on about his business as a saved Christian since his sins are forgiven? What if the amount was $2,000? What if the amount was $200,000?

I want to be clear that paying back tithes, just like paying back the money the man stole, is not involved at all in the sin issue. Your sins are forgiven when you accept Christ as your savior and confess your sins. Paying back tithes is (at least in my mind) a restitution issue. General restitution for trespass is no different in scripture than the general penalty for not paying tithes. Each law set forth a 20% fine. Other than the restitution / trespass scriptures, I don't think there is extremely clear guidance in scripture about situations like this. All Jews were brought up knowing the Law (in theory) so for them there was no excuse. I don't find direct mention of what was done with proselytes to the Jewish faith.

The answers to the above questions give some guidance as to how to handle the back tithe issue. We need to be careful if we feel man has a higher standard of restitution to his fellow man than to God. If anybody falls into this category, seek out what God has to say about the issue. Seek out what your local Pastor says if you aren't feeling you are getting any answer. But do remember that you are ultimately responsible to God for your actions, regardless of what any man may advise. If you don't like the answer you are getting, nobody can help that.

Second and Third Tithe

As I thought about the second and third tithe this week, I had the thought that even when the Israels were in bondage in foreign countries or were being oppressed in their own land or under Roman rule, God's requirements for what He expected from His people didn't change. In this respect, our own government's taxation isn't much different from that of the Roman Empire.

Mt. 22:15-22

22:15 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.

22:16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.

22:17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

22:18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

22:19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

22:20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

22:21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.

22:22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

God may still expect more from us than is commonly thought. I must admit that I don't have any direct parallels today to the second tithe in Biblical days. There may be no direct parallel. God may simply want a second 10% to be dedicated to providing for worship facilities, conferences, special speakers, bible camps or some other similar thing that would serve a similar function to the feasts in the Old Testament. Does anyone have any other thoughts on the second or third tithe?

Tithing: Disobedience and Obedience

Pr. 3:9-10; Mal. 3:7-14

Pr. 3:9 Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:

3:10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

Mal. 3:7 Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?

3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

3:9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

3:11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.

3:12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.

3:13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?

3:14 Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?

When hard times come, it is sometimes very difficult not to be in the position of at least thinking in our hearts what God accuses Israel of in verse 14. We have done what you said Lord, so what is wrong? It usually comes out with the timbre of a two year old's whine. It frequently has the repetition rate of one as well.

Malachi was one of the 3 prophets after the exile, along with Haggai and Zechariah. This book was written in Palestine about 557 to 525 B.C. The people of God were in pretty bad shape during the time of this writing. We are focusing on the issue of tithes and offerings, but some of this background will hopefully help to show the people's hearts at this time. [Read themes of Malachi (p. 927), state of Israel (p. 925-1d), and list of 32 sins in Malachi (p. 927 1/4).]

Obedience

You can't get much stronger words about tithing than those found in Malachi. As with so many of God's rebukes to His children, there are associated promises. And what promises could be better than these. In Proverbs, God promises full barns and wine presses bursting out with new wine. In Malachi, the following blessings are promised for bringing the tithes to the storehouse.

  • There will be meat in God's house (Dake's comment is that there will not be a lack of means or money to carry on His work.)
  • He will open the windows of Heaven; He will pour out such a blessing that there will not be room to receive it.
  • The devourer will be rebuked for us and will not be permitted to destroy the fruits of our ground nor cast the fruit of our vines prematurely. To me this is one of the biggest blessings for me currently. I feel that God has already poured out blessings for me so I have scarcely room to contain them. Rebuking the devourer is what I depend on in these days. Satan is out there trying to undo or to undermine every blessing God gives. The protecting hedge of God is a wonderful and marvelous thing that every Christian should be thankful for. Considering all the things the devourer has at his disposal - illness, natural disaster, evil men or women to break in and destroy, accidents, lawsuits, et cetera, you need the hand of God staying the evil one to survive. I don't want to make this sound like God makes you impervious to the world's forces. Look at the tests and trials of Job. But given the choice of being on God's side by obedience or on your own side by disobedience, surely obedience is a better place to be.
  • All nations will call you blessed - the land will be delightsome; considering the land of Israel, to have all nations call that desert land blessed and delightsome would show just how much God wanted to do for Israel if they weren't continually in a backslidden and rebellious attitude.

As Don Maguire said in a message last week: "These are God's words - He said them and it doesn't matter whether we have faith or believe in what He said - the words are still true". God doesn't change. He asks His children to prove Him and His words.

Many times, this sort of a fired up subject can lead to other problems because we expect the windows of heaven to open and have a blessing of a particular color and flavor poured out. The items God mentions are fairly general. They are very good, but also fairly general. A monetary gift should not be expected to return a multiplied monetary reward. It may, but this is not what the scripture is saying.

There is a story about a person who dies and looks back at the footsteps in the sand - the persons and those of Christ along beside. During difficult spots in the person's life, there were just one set of footprints and the person asked God why when help was most needed that He left. The answer was - those were the times I carried you.

The blessings of Christ may come in an infinite number of ways. It might be in something as important but manifestly non-monetary as finding the right wife, having good kids, health, having things last a long time, being able to fix things yourself, or it may be monetary at times. If you continue to be faithful to God in your giving to Him, you may not know just how all God has helped you until you get to Heaven. If you stop being faithful you may find out quite rapidly some of the help He has provided.

Disobedience

On the other hand, if we rob God we are cursed with an unspecified curse. Even if it is just the absence of the blessing He mentions for obedience, it would be bad enough. If it was something worse, it would be bad indeed. Note that one of the complaints of God was that the offerings to Him were of the lame and sick animals. How many times is God's house the recipient of the cast-offs that weren't fit for our homes or offices. We should be careful stewards with God's funds. But we should also be careful about what we offer. This message is basically oriented around financial items, but it can also go beyond that to how we worship and the time we give God.

Examples from Scripture

For the rest of this message, I am going to focus on some examples from scripture of God providing for His people. Too often, we think of tithing as paying part of what we make to God. We need to focus on our tithing being giving back a portion of what God has given to us in the first place. Then, we need to be thankful for the 90% (or 80% or 76 2/3%) that he provides for our use.

Manna

One of the many murmurings of Israel against God dealt with Him taking His people from Egypt and then starving them in the wilderness. His solution was to send manna and quails. Every person was entitled to gather an omer (3 qt and 1 pt) daily for 5 days. The full omer was to be eaten daily with none left over. On the sixth day, 2 omers were to be gathered. All preparation was done on the sixth day for both that day and the sabbath.

If you hoarded the manna, it rotted and stank. The sun destroyed any manna which wasn't gathered each day. The pot of manna kept as a memorial never rotted, stank, or disappeared.

This was a small example of rebuking the devourer. But it lasted for 40 years. There are also several general precepts which apply to how we run our lives which can be taken from this.

  • God can provide what we need - miraculously if necessary or through the working of others.
  • God rarely supplies more than what we need - it gets us into trouble.
  • God frequently makes us work even for His miracles if we have been murmuring against Him.
  • Just like the manna, if you hoard your goods and don't ever give out to God in tithes and offerings - or to others in need - your stuff starts to stink.
  • God protects things set aside for His purposes.

Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath

There was a drought in the land - neither rain nor dew except at the word of Elijah. Elijah was fed first by ravens that was itself a miracle. Then he went to Zarephath where God had commanded a widow woman to sustain him.

1 Ki. 17:8-16

17:8 And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,

17:9 Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.

17:10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.

17:11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.

17:12 And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.

17:13 And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.

17:14 For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.

17:15 And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.

17:16 And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.

A couple of interesting things. This was a very human widow. She was in dire straits. Before Elijah had even arrived, the scripture states that God had commanded the widow lady to sustain Elijah. Now one of two scenarios unfolded.

  • Either she was going to try to make a meal for herself and her son before Elijah got there and figured the prophet of the Lord could take care of herself and was caught by Elijah as she was gathering twigs, or
  • She knew what God had said and had purposed in her heart to do it but just had to grumble a little bit to Elijah about her sacrifice when he showed up.

Putting God first in our lives is rarely put to this extreme test. Yet because of her obedience, the widow at Zarephath was sustained far beyond her resources. In addition, when her son fell sick and died, her son was resurrected from the dead by Elijah.

Lily of the Valley

Mt. 6:25-34

6:25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

6:27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

6:28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

6:29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

6:30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

6:32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

It is very hard when times are tough to not pray for the things we think we need. This scripture is given against worry and anxiety on the parts of Christians of all times. It is clear from these scriptures that it only addresses the necessities of life that God desires to provide. We had many testimonies last week of miraculous provision in times of hardship.

Faith in God - Not in Man

Deut. 6:10-12, 8:7-20

6:10 And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,

6:11 And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full;

6:12 Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

8:7 For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;

8:8 A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey;

8:9 A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.

8:10 When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.

8:11 Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day:

8:12 Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein;

8:13 And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied;

8:14 Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;

8:15 Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint;

8:16 Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end;

8:17 And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.

8:18 But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.

8:19 And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.

8:20 As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.

When you think of all the miracles the Israelis saw, you wonder how they could ever forget God and what He had done for them. But they were too often too much like the Egyptians before them. The Egyptians pursued Israel relentlessly. When the Israelis began to cross the Red Sea, the Egyptians put their faith in their own gods and the speed of their horses and the swiftness of their chariots to be able to catch Israel before they got across the Sea. Yet, out in the middle of the Red Sea God spoke a word and the wheels came off their chariots. About that time, there was a massive impulse to Run Away, Run Away, but it was too late for them. Not a single member of the pursuing force survived.

Often Christians find themselves in the Egyptians place. We put our faith in someplace or someone or something other than God as we do things. We just don't like to admit it. The warnings in the scriptures above apply just as much or more to us today as they did to the Israelis. Compared to Israel, most of the United States is truly a wonderful land. Although we too have deserts, we have so much fertile land that we find ourselves boasting of our own strength and what we have made the land do rather than what God has done for us. We may not say such things out loud, but verse 17 is certainly true for many of us at some point in time. We need to be sure we don't find ourselves out in the middle of our own Red Sea experience when God decides to take the wheels off of our chariots.

If you haven't felt that way yet, then this is fair warning. As you become more prosperous you will be tempted to think these thoughts. It is something I fight, particularly since I create and develop a product with my mind and hands. I think any person that does a unique creative act in their job - from builder to artist - has a particular problem with this feeling of being in complete control of your destiny and doing things on your own rather than with God's help. But it certainly can exist in any trade or profession, from assembly line to accounting to being a pastor of a church.

This attitude is especially true living in a land of milk and honey as it were. When whole nations are struggling, such as many of the nations in Africa, and find God, they are more thankful for the role He plays. For us, even today, if something goes wrong we just blame it on the weather - ``El Niño'', or some other intangible thing out of our control. After all, we couldn't have made a mistake. We're perfect. My counters are always level, my plumbing never leaks, my floors are always spotless, my advice is always perfect. That's why I got the raise, the contract, the bonus, et cetera. Not acknowledging God's handiwork is an easy trap to fall into.

I don't have any good answers about why bad things happen to large numbers of good people such as floods, fires, hurricanes, and epidemics. I can tell you that the condition of the world's weather occurred due to man's original sin. God didn't set these things in motion to hurt His creation. Likewise, epidemics and diseases weren't put on Earth by God. They came as the result of man's sin. Satan is out to destroy all of what God has done and Christians in particular. I do expect that in many cases God's people have been warned from the pulpit or by the Holy Spirit to get out of Dodge as it were, but found the lure of the place they were at to be overpowering.

Some Final Examples

Examples of prosperity from God:

Laws of Prosperity

Promises for prosperity:

Reasons for lack of prosperity: