Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Heart of Stewardship: The Grace of Giving

Larry Burkett once stated: “Giving should be an outward, material expression of a deep, spiritual commitment...an indication of a willing and obedient heart.”
Martin Luther said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all. But whatever I placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

A Starting Place for Giving: Under the Old Covenant with His children, giving started with a tithe. The meaning of the word “tithe” is a “tenth part.” Ten percent was to be given back to God. There were freewill offerings too, but the 10 percent was mandatory. “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” Leviticus 27:30.
Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.” God’s children were to give to Him first, not last. Jesus validated the tithe in Matthew 13:23, but there is no mention of tithing after the Gospels. It wasn’t commanded nor was it rescinded. Tithing should never be viewed as a form of legalism. Every New Testament example of giving goes far beyond the tithe. However, none falls short of it. There is a timeless truth behind the concept of giving God our first fruits. Whether the tithe is still the minimal measure of those first fruits, I ask myself, does God expect His New Covenant children to give less or more? Jesus raised the spiritual bar; He never lowered it. I see the tithe as God’s historical method to get us on the path of giving. It serves as a gateway to the joy of grace giving. Tithing is not the finish line of giving; its just the starting blocks. Tithes can be the training wheels to launch us into the mindset, skills, and habits of grace giving. Tithing is like a toddlers first steps: they aren’t his last or best steps, but they’re a good start.

I have had the privilege to interview several givers. Most of them will mention tithing as the practice that first stretched them to give more. They tithed and then watched God provide. God Himself said, “Test me in this (tithe)...and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Malachi 3:10 God withholds no good thing from those who love and honor Him.

 Pastor Virgil Amundson