We started our capital campaign last week. Some of you have been through quite a few of these, and for others this is your very first one. I said on Sunday that there are two sides to every campaign. The first has to do with the vision and mission we have by God’s grace articulated, and how that vision and mission will be funded and furthered by the tools we are trying to build (in this case, a church structure). The second is more important – how will the Spirit of God operating through the Word of God lead individuals and families to become more generous?
The financial circumstances of individuals and families vary tremendously, which means that the amounts families give will also vary tremendously. Some of our families are going through incredibly tough times right now because of the lockdown; others have actually been blessed by an increase because of the same lockdown and its economic impact; and everywhere in between. Regardless, I am confident that we will all be challenged to examine ourselves and what faithful generosity means for our situation.
how will the Spirit of God operating through the Word of God lead individuals and families to become more generous?
The Bible is quite consistent in calling God’s people to tithe. To clarify, “to tithe” means to give your first 10% back to God in the form of giving to your local church primarily, and in the form of giving to various other Christian causes such as missionaries, ministries, etc. (I do not believe that philanthropy – giving to Pelotonia or the New Albany Community Foundation or Big Brothers/Big Sisters – is part of one’s tithe to God. It is not bad to give philanthropically, but it is not part of the tithe because it is not advancing the particular cause of the Gospel of Jesus). Here are a few of many examples where we find the tithe in the Bible:
Genesis 14:17-20 17 After [Abram’s] return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Abram/Abraham goes to war, and upon his return he meets a mysterious “priest of God Most High.” This guy with the funny name, Melchizedek, is actually a Christ figure (see Hebrews 5 and 7). He brings our bread and wine – sound familiar? And well before the Law is given at Mt. Sinai to God’s people, Abram/Abraham tithes.
Genesis 28:20-22 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”
Abraham’s grandson Jacob is setting out to find a wife and build a life. God comes to him in a dream and promises him the land he is in. In return, Jacob makes a sacred promise – “I will give a full tenth to you.” Again, prior to any written Law, Jacob tithes to God.
Matthew 23:23 [Jesus said], “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
Jesus only talked about tithing one time, right here. He is in the middle of condemning the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. They have neglected the more important matters of the law, but note that they should not have neglected the commitment to tithing.
Neither should we. Friends, you will never be able to afford to tithe until you tithe. Wouldn’t you rather have 90% that God blesses completely, instead of 100% that is taking from the Giver of All Good Things (Malachi 3:8)? I have no doubt that if all of our families committed to tithing, we would have no problem raising what we need for this great and awesome effort to build a church in this community where the Gospel will be preached for generations to come, long after we are gone.
This may all be new to you. If it is, start somewhere! If you are giving 2% of your income, try giving 4%, and then 6%, all the way up to 10% in the next few years.
Keep praying and talking about this. God wants to make all of us faithful in generosity.
Serving (and giving) Together,