Bottles from the Springs: On Giving. Oh, the stories we could tell! And tell them we did! Ryan began with the amazing up-welling of generosity out of poverty that he was witness to in Kingston, Jamaica, at the World Evangelistic Center-how they paraded and danced with joy when it came to worship God by giving. And then, TK told his story of how God challenged and changed his thinking about giving and controlling his life. Who really is in control of our lives and economies? And on top of that TK related Micah the prophet's words about what God requires to Jesus' interpretation of the same words relating Humility to Faithfulness. Or what about the story of Reggie Stitson, an immigrant to America in 1921 from Southhampton, England (or at least that was the port the SS Aquitania pulled out of) who found work with his cousin at a papermill in Massachussetts. He found a nice Baptist American woman and married but found out his paycheck could only pay his rent. Reggie felt challenged to obey the call of God on his life to tithe and then, the Mill increased his hours. Reggie felt that was God's provision and answer to his obedience. Later on in his life my immigrant Grandfather's story would be passed on to me and my sisters by our parents at the dinner table as an illustration of God's faithfulness. It's not that God actually needs our money! But in America, money is such a symbol of control and power in our lives! When we give to God and declare in that way who we really think gets the power and glory and who we really think is in control, well, that is when we begin to understand why folks in some church situations hold parades and dance and worship and ushers hold offering plates up high before altars ( a certain charismatic episcopal church I once attended) in order to express before the maker and provider of life and work our worship. We are giving over power to the Lord. Deuteronomy 26:12 New International Version (NIV) 12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.
Ryan pointed out about this verse that tithes for Israel were to provide for God's workers-the Levites, who had no real estate of their own to produce income through (Israel was a farming economy)-gotta have land or no crops to sell in market to make your money! And also what about your neighbors who may be widows or orphans-God commands Israel to love them who may be helpless, and then the stranger/immigrant/foreigner/alien. Tithes were meant to do for these helpless folks. We assume that's what welfare is for and then encourage our politicians to keep cutting the funds for it so we can keep more money for ourselves! Are we truly doing God's desires when we do that? Or do we keep that back?-what does God desire? Another thing to think about is that in the Apostle Peter's letter 1 Peter 2:9, Peter compares all believers to a “nation of priests”. For Peter, seeing the new reality post-Pentecost, Risen Christ, New community of believers, saints all, Jesus followers are picking up God's mission which Israel cast down, to be a nation of priests to the world, reconciliation with God, to God, is what we offer to the World! So, in the ecclesia, the new reality in Jesus, the poor widow and orphan as well as the immigrant alien who turn to Jesus and become new in Christ also become the new chosen race-ethnos with all other followers of Jesus and we all become Levites! So let's be careful limiting our minds to the scope of what the Eternal God desires of his one new race-Christians! And speaking of narrow minded, stingy habited, people, Matthew 23:23 New International Version (NIV) 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. Ryan reminded us of this word of Jesus to the people in his day who were religious teachers and leaders and who had a lot of influence in politics and power. They made their opinion known but helped few folks enjoy the economy of God's Kingdom. If we are only going to make the rules serve us instead of seeing how God's desires liberate us and how willing God is to supply the need of His people, then we will see the systems break down around us and “keeping” the rules will deal death and not life to ourselves and our families. That is exactly what the Pharisees did! The Pharisees had a view that only saw the economy of Israel and Rome and not God or God's Kingdom. That is why Jesus could tell them that Rome's coins were all Caesar wanted but God wanted people's entire lives to stomp around in Does God own you or just 10 percent of your cash? And if God owns you, do you believe He will let you and your children starve? Again, what do we really believe about God?
1 Corinthians 16:2 New International Version (NIV) 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. My wife and I over a decade ago, were led to set up a separate bank account which we called, “God's Storehouse”. When we first married we were led to use Old Testament suggestions like Tithing as a base for our giving. But we did not stop there. As God gave to us, we gave to wherever we were led. God used our giving abilities to give to wherever He was at work! We have given to local fellowships, servants of God in need, housed homeless, welcomed strangers, once I literally gave a man in a hurricane who was homeless an extra raincoat I had. And yes, we have and keep a budget over what God sends us through the work we do for a living and folks have literally sent us money at times because at one time in the past we offered them hospitality! So while we discipline our use of money, we also give God the ownership of all we are and have! Malachi 3:10 New International Version (NIV) 10 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 there will not be room enough to store it. Are you worried about the rent? Who owns the planet? We know that the enemy of our souls claims to own the kings and kingdoms of everything humans build and run on this planet. When Jesus and Satan met, Satan offered all the kingdoms of the planet to Jesus! Just think about that for a bit! How come Jesus in righteous indignation didn't bring a bit of a smackdown on the Prince of Darkness!? What was Jesus saying? Because Satan linked Worship to the thing-”If you will only bow down and worship me!” Who really owns you? Stuff? Things? Fear of not having enough? What people really fear motivates them and Jesus responded with the command about Worship-worship the Lord your God and Him alone shall you worship! So when God asks you to give, when He reveals a need that He gave you the ability to supply you better not be reaching for the faucet to turn off the flow! This is not about making Televangelists rich but this is about being on God's side when God is using his Kingdom Supply chain to bring blessing to the Nations! Saints let's be on the winning side in this part of Spiritual warfare. Give God what belongs to God and figure out what that means in your life! And if anyone lacks wisdom about this we are given permission to ask God's help and He will make us Wiser! That we have Jesus' word on! I think Sunday's teaching was really about how God wants to answer our fears about money! God doesn't need any money! He has no need, but what are we afraid of? We need to answer that question.