Last week we learned that God is pleased with our obedience and He responds with
- Blessings and multiplication of our seeds
- He protects our seed from our enemies by giving it power.
- By blessings all nations (people) through our obedient giving.
We saw that Abraham only experienced the second call of God through obedience to the first call. We learned that God will only reveal His hidden treasure to us when He sees that we are willing to release what we hold dear.
Because Abraham obeyed and did not withhold; Because he released to God his son of promise; God blessed him, his descendants and his descendant’s generation.
Nations are blessed today because one man was willing to obey God.
Today we are going to look at how we can achieve this liberation.
Whenever we hear about financial stewardship, our mind goes to a 10% tithe giving. When we obey this law, we somehow are content, and our guilt is taken away from our conscience. However, the rule of giving in the New Testament is to take all that we have and turn it over without withholding anything and following Jesus. Many of us may have a problem with this teaching.
Here is what Jesus taught.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to Him and fell on his knees before Him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good” Jesus answered, “No one is good except God alone”. You know the commandments. Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.”
“Teacher” he declared “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack.” He said “Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this, the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth.
This young man was so proud of his achievements in keeping the law. He probably not only had kept the law of Moses but the laws the Pharisees had crafted as well. But Jesus had a big lesson for him which he did not anticipate. This challenge from Jesus exposed this young man’s pride and his true motives. There was a barrier between him and the kingdom of God and he did not see it until Jesus mentioned it to him. “Go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor.” His love for money represented his true character which was hidden in the obedience of the law.
Ex 20:3 says, “You shall have no other gods before me”
This young man did not realize that money had become his god and had therefore not kept the law of Moses as he had claimed. He could not meet this requirement that Jesus had set for him. He came wondering what he could do, but left seeing what he was unable to do.
This is the New testament rule!
The joy of obeying this New Testament rule is that when you turn over everything you have to Jesus, He turns it back over to you and gives you a new responsibility to be a good steward with the freedom to decide how you are going to use it for the furtherance of His kingdom fully accountable to Him.
All we have belongs to Jesus and we are only stewards and we shall be held to account of everything that was handed over to us. The freedom to spend how you like, what you have lies squarely with you. But the power of creating wealth remains with God and He is the one who gives it.
Are you being a good steward of what God has entrusted to you?
In the Old Testament, there are three kinds of tithes (Deuteronomy 14:22-29; Numbers18:26-32)
- The First Tithe-This was commanded in the Torah. It was a tenth of the agricultural produce given after the Terumah-a heave offering to God
- The Second Tithe- was to be brought and consumed within the wall of Jerusalem in the Old city. However, if one lived far from Jerusalem, they were allowed to convert it to silver coins for easy carriage.
- The third Tithe– or the poor man’s tithe is a law in Judaism that requires a tenth of the agricultural produce from the third- and sixth-year cycles of the seven-year agricultural cycle to be given to the Levites and the poor.
The principal behind these tithes were to show God cares for those working in His call and also the poor, strangers, widows and the orphaned. God wants us to use our money for His purposes. We should be good stewards of what He has entrusted to us.
As New Testament believers, we should not be guided by laws that releases us from guilt but rather we should operate from a platform of liberation and valuing the purpose for which God has given us resources and respond accordingly to the needs that surround us and ensuring the gospel reaches the ends of the earth.
The church needs to provide facilities for the gospel to reach the youth and children. Every Sunday we prepare lessons and teaching aids for all 900 children in our Next-Gen church. We are ready to pay school fees in the thousands for our children to get formal education, but we are unwilling to invest in the spiritual education that will shape their lives eternally. We buy expensive books in the school curriculum, but we do not invest in our children’s Christian reading material that will help them know God and renew their minds. As a church, we should be involved in developing materials that will shape our children spiritually. We should invest in our home libraries the same way we invest on cable TV to watch the latest movies etc.
Christians, we are no longer under the law. Rather we have been liberated to understand that God needs to partner with us through the resources that He has given to us in order to invest in the lives of people. Kenya’s 60% population is the youth. Many of them under 19 years. Who is going to shape their minds? Is it the church or the world? Already the war between the world and the church is intense. Our children are influenced in every forum available including the mobile phones we have bought them to the TV’s in our homes. The only window left is the teaching we give a few hours on Sunday, yet we do not want to invest our resources in the church. Some are today seated with their children in the church when there are wonderful programs currently running in the children church for their age group. You say they have refused to go yet they don’t refuse to go to school all day. What happened to parenting?
I don’t want us to give because there is a law governing us. I want us to give because we have such a deep relationship with God, and we are obedient enough to be His partners in His work.
Money has such a powerful pull on us. Last Sunday we said that when economic times hit hard, the first casualty is giving. God wants us to give with pleasant hearts and with a joyful spirit.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name Zacchaeus; He was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man, he could not, because of the crowd. So, he run ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see Him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and said to him. “Zacchaeus come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So, he came down and welcomed Him gladly. All the people saw this, and they began to mutter. “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to Him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the son of man came to seek and save the lost.”
From this story, it is not in doubt that Zacchaeus was a crooked man. The people did not hide it with their muttering and expression of disgust that he could find favor with Jesus. But his encounter with Jesus liberated him and he gave to the poor a large proportion of his wealth and also restituted with a generous interest those he had cheated.
Zacchaeus demonstrated his inward change with an outward action of generosity.
We cannot follow Jesus with our heads or hearts only. We must demonstrate that our faith has been changed through our behavior and response with obedience and liberal generosity. What do you need to change in your giving attitude? Jesus never asked Zacchaeus to give; He gave out of his own free will. The rich young ruler in Mark 10 was asked by Jesus to give but because his heart had not been transformed, he went away sad.
Jesus asked from the young rich ruler for all he had. From Zacchaeus he asked nothing. God is not asking a percentage of what you have, He is asking for hundred percent. When we understand this New Testament concept, we shall give with gratitude and ensure the work of God will never stop because we have been liberated.
Giving is a spiritual discipline that is never taught but learnt through action. It is designed to give us freedom to grow in our faith. When we freely give, we freely receive. This is a kingdom principal.
In Luke 8, we find some women who had benefitted from the ministry of Jesus. Some had been cured from diseases and others set free from demonic oppression. In return they followed Jesus and supported His ministry from their own means.
What has the Lord done for you in your life? How are you involved in supporting His work? “Open arms” is the freedom to give and to receive through the beautiful relation we have with Christ Jesus.