‘Money makes the world go round’ – or at least, that’s how the saying goes!
Certainly money – how much of it I have, whether it’s ‘enough’ and where I spend it – not only affects many of our daily decisions and choices but can be a source of identity for us, or an idol in our lives. Financial pressures, and debt in particular, are often a key cause of worry and stress. It’s no wonder then that money can be a sensitive subject. Yet Jesus spoke about money almost more than other single topic!
Jesus’ overwhelming message about money was: master it, don’t let it master you!
Money, possessions, materialism – these can easily entrap the believer, and take our eyes off the eternal Kingdom of God, to replace it with the temporary treasures of this world. Jesus wanted us to make sure that we didn’t allow money to sneak into our hearts and replace him on the throne. In fact, when Jesus told us that we will either serve Him or Mammon, it is the only time He ever compared Himself with another ‘god’! Mammon itself isn’t money per se – it’s the idolatry of money and possessions.
Keeping money in its place
One of the ways in which we can discipline our hearts and ensure we keep money in its place, is to give it away. By giving money away, we remember that all we have is temporary, and we focus our attention on what is eternal instead.
In his message on 29 June Ian Galloway described the encounter of Abram and Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17 – 15:1). If you haven’t had a listen to this message yet, you can do so here – A Tenth of Everything
From this passage, which describes how after a successful battle Abram gave a tenth of everything to the priest Melchizedek, we can see just how powerful the giving of the first portion of our money to the church is :
1) Giving the tenth says “thank you” to God. Thank you for the victory we live in: for life, salvation, and deliverance from the oppression of sin, for God’s goodness.
2) Giving the tenth says “I trust you” to God. I know you are God who blesses me and protects me, who is with me in difficulty. I know that I don’t have to hoard wealth and possessions for the future, for I trust God with my future.
God knows our needs and promises to provide for us. When we give to Him, He loves to give back to us. He even issues us a challenge in this –
“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, `How do we rob you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse–the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:8-9)
It is important that we understand that this is not a promise that we will receive financial reward for good behaviour, or that giving away our money guarantees that we will receive more money in return. There are many Christians who faithfully give and yet remain financially challenged. We do not give to God in order to receive! We give to God because all that we have has already been given to us by God! And yet, God promises us that He WILL bless us – whether that is a financial blessing, or a blessing of relationships or healing, or many other ways – when we are faithful to Him with our giving.. The important thing is that we learn to trust God to provide for us.
3) Giving the tenth says to God “I am totally yours”. God is totally committed to us – by giving back to him we declare we are totally committed to Him.
4) Giving the tenth to our local church says “I need you” to the priests – that is the church, the priesthood of all believers. It says I need your prayers, I need your blessing. This is why we give our money to the local church, the community of believers to whom we are committed and with whom we are in relationship. It is the ‘body’ we are part of in which we grow, who pray for us, bless us, challenge us, help us. While we can of course give to other organisations and missions etc. as well – our first fruits giving is to the local church.
It’s all about relationship!
We do not give money out of fear, out of duty or out of a belief that by giving we can ‘twist God’s arm’ to bless us with more money. Neither are we benefactors to God – giving to the church because “they need it”! No! We are obedient in giving! We give because God first gave us the incredible gift of Jesus Christ, and through His death and resurrection the priceless gifts of mercy, forgiveness and eternal life. We give to remind ourselves that everything we have comes from God in the first place!
Remember Jesus’ warning: no man can have two masters – he will end up loving the one and hating the other. One way to keep money in its place, ensuring that the only Lord of our lives is Jesus, not money, is to guard our hearts in our attitude toward money. Giving our money to God’s church is one way of doing that.