Stewardship Under the Cross

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Stewardship Under the Cross for March 2018

Stewardship Under the Cross: Do I have to Tithe?

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Last month we started looking at what God’s Word says about our money offerings. In the process, we came across one of the big words that is connected to the topic of giving: ‘tithe’. So let’s talk about that word. We’re probably familiar with the concept—giving the first 10% of our income as an offering to God. The big question on most people’s minds is: Do I have to?

That is an interesting question: do we have to tithe under the New Testament? After all, tithing, that is, giving 10% of our income to God's work in the Church, is a regulation of the Old Testament. We live under Christ in the New Testament so does this apply to us today?

We might approach our answer to this question by asking whether or not we have to keep the Third Commandment – which reads in full from Exodus 20:8-11

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

So do we have to keep this commandment? Should we cease from all labor on Saturday as the people of the Old Testament did? Of course not! That was one of the Old Testament prophecies of Christ – and since Christ has fulfilled the Sabbath rest by resting in the tomb on Holy Saturday, we are free from the Old Testament Sabbath regulations. Thus St. Paul writes, “Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:16-17).

And yet, there the Third Commandment stands in our Small Catechism: Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy! What's going on here? Well, look at Luther's explanation of the third commandment: “What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but gladly hear and learn it.” So the form of the commandment, the letter of the law, has passed away as a shadow: but the spirit still remains. We are to honor God by our worship, by gladly receiving His Word and Sacraments in His Church.

So it is with tithing. The New Testament nowhere lists the precise regulations about giving this tithe and that tithe to the Levites and the Temple and so on. Those precise regulations were to point us to Christ: who represents the fullness of humanity though He is one Man, just as the tithe represented the fullness of the income of the people of Israel though it was only 10% thereof. We are in no way bound to these precise legal regulations of Old Testament Israel.

And yet, just as the fulfilling of the Sabbath Day doesn't mean that going to the Lord's House for worship once a week is obsolete – so also the New Testament does not make faithful financial stewardship obsolete. Rather, the New Testament is full of admonitions on this point: “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as each one of you may prosper.” (1 Cor.16:2); “But just as you excel in everything-- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us --see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Cor. 8:7); “The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work” (2 Cor. 9:6-8).

So just as the Old Testament's once a week worship became the benchmark for New Testament worship, so also the Old Testament's tithe becomes the benchmark for New Testament stewardship. Not in the way of inflexible, minute regulations – but in the way of pattern and fulfillment. If in the New Testament we are called to give proportionally (“as each one may prosper”), weekly (“on the first day”), and “generously” - then surely the Old Testament tithe is the floor level of Christian giving, not the ceiling. As our worship in the New Testament is a greater fulfillment of the Old Testament Sabbath, so also our New Testament stewardship is called to be an even greater sacrificial fulfillment of the Old Testament tithing regulations.

 

Stewardship Under the Cross for Feb 25, 2018

Stewardship Under the Cross: 5 Requirements Regarding Offerings

1.         The Lord wants me to make my money offerings willingly.

 “You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

2.         The Lord wants me to make my money offerings to Him first.

 “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first part of everything your land produces. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with the finest wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10

3.     The Lord wants me to make my money offerings to Him regularly

 “On the first day of every week, each of you should put aside some amount of money in relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.” 1 Corinthians 16:2

4.     What is important is that I make my money offerings proportionately.

 “On every Lord’s Day, each of you should put aside some amount of money in relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.” 1 Corinthians 16:2

 “Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” Luke 12:48

5.     My money offerings to the Lord should also be made generously.

 “Now I want to tell you, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done for the churches in Macedonia. Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the gracious privilege of sharing in the gift for the Christians in Jerusalem.” 2 Corinthians 8:1-4

Jesus said, “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Luke 7:47

Stewardship Under the Cross for Feb 18, 2018

Stewardship Under the Cross: To whom does my money belong?

Some of the teachings of the Bible are more difficult than others. For many the teachings about money, possessions and offerings are among the most difficult. But God’s instructions are for our good, not for our harm. If we follow His instructions, we will be free and content. Jesus said in John 8:36 “If the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.” We also read in 1 Timothy 6:6 that “...godliness with contentment is great wealth.” That is God’s desire for His people: freedom, godliness, and contentment. That is also the desire of this church for its members and associates. That is why this Bible study is being presented to you over the coming weeks. Please pray for the Lord to make you open to His message, then go through the study. If you live in a family setting, it would be a great benefit to do the study together.

One of the difficult things that God’s Word says about money and possessions is that they are not actually ours. They are entrusted to us by God. Consider just two verses that emphasize that point.

Haggai 2:8

'The silver is mine, and the gold is mine,’ says the Lord Almighty.

1 Chr. 29:14

King David said to God, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you have already given us!”

So everything I have really belongs to God. I am merely His manager of those things. That gives added weight to everything else you’ll hear in the next several weeks. It isn’t just advice from a neighbor about what you may or may not choose to do with your own property. It’s instruction from the One who entrusted these things to us about how we can and should use them to our own and our neighbor’s benefit.

Stewardship Under the Cross for Feb 11, 2018

Stewardship Under the Cross: Who Benefits from Our Offerings?

One surprising fact that it is helpful to understand before we dig deeper into what God’s Word says about our offerings is who will benefit from giving as God instructs us. He doesn’t give us these commands for His benefit, but for ours.

We do not make God poor when we fail to give money to Him properly, but we do make ourselves poor if we do not give according to the standards He sets for us in His Word, the Bible. God does not need our money, but we need to give the way the Bible tells us to in order to overcome the negative influence money and the things of this world can have on us.

Matthew 6:24

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

As is so often the case, what God commands is for our benefit. God’s instructions are for our good, not for our harm. If we follow His instructions, we will be free and content. Jesus said in John 8:36 “If the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.” We also read in 1 Timothy 6:6 that “...godliness with contentment is great wealth.”

It starts with the forgiveness that He gives us freely and lavishly—at the price of His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. Now that you are set free, God’s desire—and the desire of this church—is for you to live in that freedom.

That is why this Bible study is presented to you over the coming weeks. Please pray for the Lord to make you open to His message by accepting it for what it is: the loving guidance of your Creator and Redeemer. 

Stewardship Under the Cross for February 4, 2018

Stewardship Under the Cross:  What exactly is “tithing” and what does God say about it?

“To tithe” literally means “to give 10%.” The command about tithing was part of the Old Testament laws for the nation of Israel. So what God said in the Law is no longer a requirement, although the principle remains. (The principle in the Bible is that offerings begin at 10%.) But the Lord’s promises never change. And consider this promise about tithing:

Mal. 3:10-11

“‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not shrivel before they are ripe,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

What if I serve the Lord faithfully, even exceptionally, in other areas? Does that mean I don’t need to follow these directions about money offerings?

2 Corinthians 8:7

“Since you excel in so many ways—you have so much faith, such gifted speakers, such knowledge, such enthusiasm, and such love for us—now I want you to excel also in this gracious ministry of giving.”

Matthew 23:23

And he said, “You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things.”

Jesus, Himself, compared offerings with “the important things of the law—justice, mercy, and faith.” So no matter how well or faithfully I may serve in other areas, the Lord expects me to follow His directions regarding money offerings, also, and even to excel in this area.

 

Stewardship Under the Cross for Feb 2018

Stewardship Under the Cross: A First Look At God's Word on Money Offerings

We do not make God poor when we fail to give money to Him properly, but we do make ourselves poor if we do not give according to the standards He sets for us in His Word, the Bible. God does not need our money, but we need to give the way the Bible tells us to in order to overcome the negative influence money and the things of this world can have on us.

Matthew 6:24

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Some of the teachings of the Bible are more difficult than others. For many the teachings about money, possessions and offerings are among the most difficult. But God’s instructions are for our good, not for our harm. If we follow His instructions, we will be free and content. Jesus said in John 8:36 “If the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.” We also read in 1 Timothy 6:6 that “...godliness with contentment is great wealth.” That is God’s desire for His people: freedom, godliness, and contentment. That is also the desire of this church for its members and associates. That is why this Bible study is presented to you. Please pray for the Lord to make you open to His message, then go through the study. If you live in a family setting, it would probably be good to do the study together.

1.   To whom does my money belong?

Haggai 2:8

‘The silver is mine, and the gold is mine,’ says the Lord Almighty.

1 Chr. 29:14

King David said to God, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you have already given us!”

So everything I have really belongs to God. I am merely His manager of those things.

2.   What 5 requirements does God make on every Christian regarding money offerings?

a.   The Lord wants me to make my money offerings willingly.

2 Corinthians 9:7

“You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully.”

b.   The Lord wants me to make my money offerings to Him first. He is not pleased when I give Him leftovers.

Proverbs 3:9-10

“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first part of everything your land produces. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with the finest wine.”

c.   The Lord wants me to make my money offerings to Him regularly, that is, whenever I have income, whether I am able to go to church that week or not.

1 Corinthians 16:2

“On the first day of every week, each of you should put aside some amount of money in relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.”

d.   The Lord tells me that it is not the amount itself that is important. What is important is that I make my money offerings proportionately. In other words, I should give a generous percentage of the income the Lord enables me to earn through my work and investments.

1 Corinthians 16:2

“On every Lord’s Day, each of you should put aside some amount of money in relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.”

Deut. 16:17

“Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.”

Luke 12:48

“Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.”

e.   My money offerings to the Lord should also be made generously.

2 Corinthians 8:1-4

“Now I want to tell you, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done for the churches in Macedonia. Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the gracious privilege of sharing in the gift for the Christians in Jerusalem.”

Luke 7:47

Jesus said, “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

God's Word tells us to give: 

  1. Willingly
  2. First
  3. Regularly (whenever I have income)
  4. Proportionately (percentage)
  5. Generously (Faithful Christian giving starts at a tithe)

3.   What if I serve the Lord faithfully, even exceptionally, in other areas? Does that mean I don’t need to follow these directions about money offerings?

2 Corinthians 8:7

“Since you excel in so many ways—you have so much faith, such gifted speakers, such knowledge, such enthusiasm, and such love for us—now I want you to excel also in this gracious ministry of giving.”

Matthew 23:23

And he said, “You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things.”

Jesus, Himself, compared offerings with “the important things of the law—justice, mercy, and faith.” So no matter how well or faithfully I may serve in other areas, the Lord expects me to follow His directions regarding money offerings, also, and even to excel in this area.

4.   What exactly is “tithing” and what does God say about it?

“To tithe” literally means “to give 10%.” The command about tithing was part of the Old Testament laws for the nation of Israel. So what God said in the Law is no longer a requirement, although the principle remains. (The principle in the Bible is that offerings begin at 10%.) But the Lord’s promises never change. And consider this promise about tithing:

Mal. 3:10-11

“‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not shrivel before they are ripe,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

5.   Is it true that some people have tried tithing and it didn’t work for them?

If that’s true, then God’s Word is not true. We should remember that the Bible does not say that tithing can be done without sacrifice. But God does say that the blessings will far outweigh any hardship if the tithing is done consistently and from the heart.

6.   Is getting a blessing from God my motivation for tithing?

No, the motivation is His amazing love for me. Consider these three Scriptures:

Galatians 2:20

“I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

2 Corinthians 8:9

“You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus Christ was. Though he was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.”

2 Corinthians 5:15

“He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them.”

7.   Please prayerfully consider the following statements.

At the end of April, we’ll be asking and inviting you to make a pledge for your giving during the next budget year (July 2018 – June 2019). It is not required, but it is beneficial in at least two ways. It is beneficial for us by helping us be more responsible in setting our budget. It is beneficial for you by encouraging you to give thought to this aspect of your faith life.

This second benefit is far more significant than we might think. A pastor once said that making a commitment limits your battle against the devil to once per year. Rather than struggling weekly over the question of how much to give, that question is decided once you have made your commitment. Unfortunately, the devil won’t stop. He’ll make it as difficult as possible to follow through with the commitment, but the harder part is behind you.

So we’re back to the refrain that you often hear: please “prayerfully consider your giving.” We’ve asked that of you a number of times recently. But what does that mean? What should you be considering, exactly? How do you decide what sort of commitment to make?

The first step in answering that question is to look at what God’s Word says about how He would have us use the earthly blessings He’s entrusted to us. That’s what we’ve been doing since the beginning of January. So now we ask you to consider the following statements that are based on the lessons we have drawn from scripture. If there are others in your household, please talk and pray about them together and consider how what we have learned applies to your life.

  • The Lord has blessed us with all we need for this body and life.
  • Have we been making first-fruit, regular, proportionate and generous (at least 10%, a tithe) money offerings to the Lord from the heart?
  • If so, what other needs in our church and community can use our attention?
  • If not – what steps can we take to move in a faithful direction?

Stewardship Under the Cross for January 21, 2018

Stewardship Under the Cross: Do I have to Tithe?

Do we have to tithe under the New Testament? After all, tithing, that is, giving 10% of our income to God's work in the Church, is a regulation of the Old Testament. We live under Christ in the New Testament so does this apply to us today?

Let’s answer this question by looking at a similar topic—something else that was commanded in the Old Testament—and ask whether or not we have to keep it today. Take, for example, the Third Commandment – which reads in full from Exodus 20:8-11

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

So do we have to keep this commandment and cease from all labor on Saturday as the people of the Old Testament did? Of course not! That was one of the Old Testament prophecies of Christ – and since Christ has fulfilled the Sabbath rest by resting in the tomb on Holy Saturday, we are free from the Old Testament Sabbath regulations. Thus St. Paul writes, “Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:16-17).

And yet, there the Third Commandment remains in our Small Catechism. The form of the commandment, the letter of the law, has passed away as a shadow. But the spirit remains: We are to honor God by our worship, by gladly receiving His Word and Sacraments in His Church—by finding our spiritual rest in Jesus Christ. We honor the Sabbath day in an even greater way.

In much the same way, we are in no way bound to the precise legal regulations of Old Testament Israel. And yet, the New Testament hardly backs away from the concept of giving. In fact, it is full of admonitions on this point: “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as each one of you may prosper.” (1 Cor.16:2) and “But just as you excel in everything-- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us --see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Cor. 8:7), to give only two examples.

So just as the Old Testament's once a week worship became the benchmark for New Testament worship, so also the Old Testament's tithe becomes the benchmark for New Testament stewardship. Not in the way of inflexible, minute regulations – but in the way of pattern and fulfillment. If in the New Testament we are called to give proportionally (“as each one may prosper”), weekly (“on the first day”), and “generously” - then surely the Old Testament tithe is the floor level of Christian giving, not the ceiling.

In other words, just as our worship in the New Testament is a greater fulfillment of the Old Testament Sabbath, so also our New Testament stewardship is called to be an even greater sacrificial fulfillment of the Old Testament tithing regulations.

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