Genesis

Tithing: Painful Giving

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As a result of sin, we are inherently possessive when it comes to money. We become like a protective lioness with her cubs when someone reaches for our money without a reasonable cause to do so. Giving hurts, and we humans are clever creatures. We understand that giving is good, but we tactfully structure our giving in a way that will not hurt us at all. We want to have it both ways. Thus, if someone is in need of money, we will give because to refuse to give would appear selfish. However, we calculate what we have and how much we could give so that after we give we can still buy the things we had already planned to buy. Then, and only then, we approve the gesture.

Tithing stands in a distinct contrast to this mindset. Tithing is a command from God, with the same characteristics as his other commands. The commands of God always call us to become a new creation born in the spirit of God and not the spirit of sin. Therefore, in order to tithe with the spirit of God, we are called to sacrifice our sinful natures and put on the Holy nature of God. Sacrifice inherently means pain, and thus most of us avoiding tithing altogether.

Because of Abram, ten percent is most commonly associated as the biblical gold-standard of tithing. While ten percent is biblical, tithing goes deeper than that. Tithing cannot be tightly calculated in the bankbook in a predictable and mechanical manner. In many ways, 10 percent should be a base number, with God free to determine how high the number can go. For some people, 10 percent is still comfortably unobtrusive when it comes to still providing for their own comforts. In this case, 10 percent is not painful, not sacrificial and thus, not enough.

Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran 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 at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and 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 to save the lost.”

Moved by the grace and power of Jesus Christ, this wealthy tax collector was not moved to give a mere ten percent and demand blessing or a miracle in return. He felt called by God first to give half of everything he owned,  and then to right the financial wrongs he had committed by repaying those he had cheated four times the amount he had initially stolen. This act of giving is not referenced in the scriptures as a tithe, but the spirit of the giving is the same as Abram in his encounter with Melchizedek, perfectly in line with the spirit of tithing according to God’s design.

Tithing: Just Giving

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The root of our discontentment toward tithing is our selfish obsession with money that we view as our own. If we view what we have as something that belongs to us, that we guard, tithing becomes increasingly difficult as a result of this possessiveness. However, according to God, the truth is that what we see as “ours” is not ours at all.

Uprooting this possessiveness and ownership is like a game of connect the dots. For example, if I view my car as mine, and thus for no one else to drive, I must ask myself “how I was able to purchase the car?” A job. How did I get the job? Hard work and studying. How did I obtain the skills to work for the job that ultimately paid for the car? And so on and so forth…

The fact is the money we hoard does not belong to us. It has been given to us by God, for us to use in this world for his glory. In the same way that we are suspicious about someone asking for our money unless they can prove to us that in some way our money will eventually return to us with investment capital, God has simply invested in us with the intention to provide us opportunities to reinvest what he has given, to produce capital for the Kingdom of God. As Jesus illustrated in Matthew 25, what we have in this world is given to us simply to reinvest for the corporate good of the Church, not for our own personal and private profit.

Matthew 25:14-30 

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 Tithing is based on a foundation of love and trust and without love and trust we are left anxiously insecure. Our insecurity with tithing illuminates our insecurity with our relationship to God.

Tithing is established in Genesis 14, when Abram meets Melchizedek:

Genesis 14:17-24

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodomcame out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
   Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
   who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”

But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”

Aside from the mysterious nature of this King of Salem, the impulse for Abram to give the King a tenth of what he worked for in the previous battle is even more surprising. To the reader this is akin to working overtime, and then handing a tenth of the hefty paycheck to a random stranger on the street. It defies financial logic. Unless, that is, Abram viewed what he had as not his own. Abram knew that the victory on the battlefield was not his own but was God’s. Thus, everything that came as a result of that battle was God’s also. In the end, to Abram, keeping everything to himself would have been as shocking to him as it is for us to see him parting with the tenth to Melchizedek. To Abram, giving to the King-Priest was entirely justified, whereas to keep everything for himself would have been the definition of injustice.

 

Water Baptism: the Global Baptism

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on water baptism.  For the rest of the series, go here.

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This week we’ll be thinking about global baptism as represented through the Flood that covered the earth in the days of Noah (found in Genesis 6-9). Three aspects of water help us to understand the Flood’s significance in the gospel narrative: water removes what is corruptrefills what is empty, and revitalizes what is dead.

Removes what is corrupt

The Flood was a result of the unleashing of sin onto humanity through the Fall, because the sinfulness of man had thoroughly consumed the hearts of men. In reading the chapters in Genesis about the Flood, we find what was at one time pure and powerfully made in the image of God reduced to utter filth and nothingness, resembling the dust of creation more than the breath of life from God himself:

When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they Created by Mobile Word Ministry married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” Genesis 6:1-7

While many find the complete destruction of the Flood offensive due to the thought of “innocent” lives lost, this reaction fails to recognize the corruption in the preflood state of humanity. This corruption was born out of addiction to sin. This addiction, as addiction tends to do, placed the needs of self over all else, regardless of the methods by which it sought to find satisfaction and gratification. This hunger to please the self had no regard for the well being of others, had no consideration of the rights and feelings of others and no care for the impact their selfish behavior had on others.

This corruption was not simply a sin here and there, or simply not being perfect. This corruption was like rust that quickly eats through the shimmering exterior of the brilliant finish to a vintage automobile. This corruption was akin to the power of weeds to completely overpower a pristine, pruned flowerbed overnight. The corruption was like a cancer persistently eating through the healthy cells of the human body. Once one comes to the realization of the depth of the corruption, then the frantic search for a cure begins. Whether in the example of rust, weeds or cancer, the search for an immediate cure or solution is the primary concern for reversing the destruction. If there is a way to stop the corruption, the owner of the car, the garden or the body will do just about anything to fix the problem.

In the case of the world before the Flood, God knew that the only way to reveal hope for future generations to live in his peace and love was to cleanse the world through the power of the mighty floodwaters from below ground and above. Although the floodwaters took life, the floodwaters ultimately cleansed the world to reveal the lives of many more to come that would find the hope of living in the Lord’s presence, free from the clutches of sin, as a result of the flood.

Refills what is empty

When considering how sin had overpowered righteousness in the days of Noah, we must not merely understand the depths of sin in the human heart at that time but must also understand the vast expanse of sin present in the world. The corruption of sin in the days of Noah was not confined to a certain sect of society or to a specific portion of the population. The corruption of sin was complete. The entire world was so consumed by sin that in order to start anew, the cleansing had to, in its turn, consume the world. In the presence of sin, one cannot simply remove the sin without filling that now empty space with the righteousness of God. Upon being emptied, without the presence of God’s righteousness now taking up the space previously occupied by sin, the space quickly yields itself to sin once more, thus continuing the spread of destruction.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” Luke 11:24-26

For the world then, the only way to reveal the hopes that find completion in Jesus thousands of years later was to move from a state of complete ruin to a state of complete purity. While sin still existed in the hearts of man post-flood, the earth was thus relieved of the burdens of sin for the time being, given a new beginning and a new endurance to bear the burdens of human sin until the coming of the Messiah in Jesus Christ.

Revitalizes what is dead

After the Fall, God made it clear to Adam and Eve that the penalty of sin is death. Thus, in the state of the world at the time of Noah, it is clear that the entire creation was charging violently and destructively toward one destination. The hunger for sin in the heart of man was so quickly consuming every inch of the human heart and the world that without cleansing the world of this blight, the entire creation was destined to die with and in its sin. The floodwaters filled the entire world, taking the place of the sin and preparing the new foundation for God’s work to be revealed and refilled. The floodwaters also gave new life to the world and to the human race in the same way that water in the human body works its way through the human system, reenergizing and reintroducing life where there was previously an utter lack. The floodwaters slowly receded, revealing the plant life created by God. The floodwaters supplied the animals alive in the ark with the water necessary to live and thrive in the new creation. The floodwaters also revealed a world to Noah and his family that was reborn out of the grip of sin and ready to be populated once again. This time it would be with the righteousness of God born out of his love and grace, by cleansing the corruption unleashed by sin in the attempt to destroy the image of God in man and replace that image with the image of sin and the human self.

Tuesday Devotional: Genesis 50

bibleRead Genesis 50:15-21

Why are we so suspicious of grace? Why are we so suspicious of undeserved forgiveness? It is a sad reality that in a world filled with so much love shared between us that we find it hard to receive that love without a complete understanding of why we deserve it in the first place. The state of a child is not only innocence and freedom of paralyzing self-awareness. The state of a child is also an innocent unawareness of the evils of this world. Unfortunately, as we grow older we begin to lose this innocence and begin to come into what we call “the real world.” This real world is one that is far more acquainted and nurturing to the selfish desires of man that are not conducive to free grace or undeserved love. In the real world we learn to be cautiously suspicious of forgiveness that is not deserved. We develop tactical skills in defending ourselves from love while we persistently hope in and seek to discover it. In the hearts of man is a struggle, a conflict, a fight. This fight is between our natural childlike nature that expects love to be love, and our nurtured state of maturity in this world that cannot accept the reason or logic behind a love that cannot be explained or rationalized. To a child, unexplained grace is a gift. To an adult, unexplained grace is a ploy. It is a move. It is a plan, a scheme, a trap. Perhaps this is the reason why the human heart is so resistant to the cross and so unwilling to accept the life of Jesus Christ. This inability to accept holy and righteous love is such that for those that have understood or accepted it, it is a crushing blow to the heart. It is a blow that brings the heart to tears. The effect of sin in this world is that it has not only separated us from God spiritually but it has produced a barrier between the love of God that we so desperately desire but as a result of sin are simultaneously afraid of.

Tuesday Devotional: Genesis 11

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Hey all! This is the first installment of the weekly devotionals here on the MWM blog. Every Tuesday, come back for another quick study in God’s Word. We will choose a short excerpt from one book of the Bible to study every week!

The weekly devotional is a brief meditation on a passage of Scripture. We won’t be examining or heavily analyzing every aspect of the passage, but we will extract the essential Truth present throughout the text. What can we learn about ourselves? What can we learn about the character and nature of God? Be blessed as you read!

Genesis 11:1-9 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

We may view the temptations that frustrate our walk with God as external, but the reality of our struggle with sin in this world and the realization of the Gospel in our lives, is that our primary enemy is ourselves. We live in a world that is difficult to understand.  We live a life that is difficult to understand. After praying for and receiving things that we do not totally understand, we find we are incapable of possessing those things without hurting ourselves and others.  We are encouraged from an early age to be the best, told that we are the most important people in our lives. Tragic consequences follow when we begin to believe it.  In an attempt to attain our life’s desires and “make a name for ourselves” we often destroy the truly good things in our lives. One of the main reasons many do not find God or feel his presence is that in the deepest recesses of the human heart, God is unwelcome and unwanted. The moment we accept that the power and perspective of God will forever overpower and supersede our own is the moment we will finally find him.  Until then? We exist as our own gods. We mustn’t be surprised when we find ourselves confused by or unable to understand the world we live in and how we are to live in it.