Read - 2 Corinthians 9
Message - Scott Woodburn
This week's devotions have been focused on the thorny subject of money with Paul urging the willing Corinthians to give financially to support the wider church. No one likes to talk about money and certainly no one likes to hear the topic preached. However we have no right or authority to ignore passages like this in the Word of God and so we finish 2 Corinthians 9 by grasping the nettle once more.
Some of you will be men and women who tithe. What is tithing? Tithing is the practice of giving a tenth (a tithe) of your income (before you pay tax), as a minimum, to the church of Jesus Christ. It isn't something invented by a preacher or denomination, instead we find tithing on the pages of Scripture. Abram returning from a great victory meets Melchizedek the king of Salem and honours him by giving him a tenth (a tithe) of the spoils of war (Genesis 14v20). This incident takes on huge significance when we realise that Christ comes in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 6v20).
So thats settled then. Christians should tithe? Steady on. Others argue that tithing does not find itself as part of God's moral law (the ten commandments) and therefore should not be imposed upon Christians. So what then should we do? I think the first step is to avoid the pitfalls and then to have our practice shaped and reformed by the Word of God.
The pitfalls? Yup, the pitfalls. Some reject the tithe or any standard of giving and sinfully ask the question "How little can I give?" Others, beginning in a place of generosity, grow to a place of hardness asking "Why doesn't everyone contribute the way I do?" Yet another believes a false Gospel and thinks "The Lord and I are okay because I pay in." Still others keep their name on a church list and contribute something just to keep their graveyard privileges (let me assure such a man, I'll bury you for free but today you must be born again). We avoid the pitfalls and then let the Word thunder. God is not silent even when a subject is thorny. Indeed the thorns of this particular subject are removed by the sharp sword of God's Word.
He tells us to give according to our means and at times to go beyond this (2 Corinthians 8v3). The Lord tells us that we are not to be forced into giving but to give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9v7). The Lord tells us that our faith (or financial gift) will not guarantee health, wealth and prosperity, the Christian walk will be hard (John 16v33). The Lord tells us that our salvation has got nothing to do with our finances (Acts 16v31). The Lord tells us that we do not give Him a gift that He will have to repay, He is not a genie who responds to your money with three wishes (Romans 11v35). The Lord tells us to avoid storing up treasure on earth (Matthew 6v19). The Lord tells us that our giving is in response to His grace (2 Corinthians 9v8) and the Lord tells us that our giving should always be in view of His glory and the advance of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 9v12-13).
Ulster wisdom likes to say that "you can't take it with you" and perhaps such wisdom echoes in other parts of the world too. It's right. We can't. Only the kingdom of God has foundations that will never be shaken. Men die with Christ or they die without Him. Heaven or hell remain the only two eternal destinations. A cheerful investment in the Gospel is more precious than gold.
Q14 What is sin? Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.