One of the biggest struggles that Christians have is against our own selfish natures.
We are seldom satisfied with what we have and are always wanting more.
It becomes a battle between God’s will and self will.
The Word and the world.
Give and receive.
Sacrifice and comfort.
Depend on God and depend on self effort.
If we re-arrange the letters in CAIN we get the expression I CAN.
This is the Cain mentality : we concentrate our lives on looking after our own obsessively selfish interests first.
I can survive by getting everything I need for myself.
My reason for being on earth is just so that I can look after myself and my needs.
Helping others is not that important in our lives.
Babies are born and soon learn to clench their fists which is a symbol of grabbing.
Grabbing for ourselves is something that we humans easily learn.
Giving is something that usually takes much longer to learn.
ADAM was made from the dust of the earth. Our bodies come from the earth.
Farmers soon learn that if we want to get crops from the earth so that we can have food in order to live, then we have to give something back in the form of seeds and fertilizer.
You get far more food back than what you put in.
Plant one mealie seed and you get back a whole cob full of mealie seeds.
But you cannot eat all the mealie seeds that are on the cob.
You have to put some of the seeds back into the soil for next year’s harvest.
The lesson from the earth is clear : we must give something back if we are to receive more.
This same lesson applies to everyday life. If someone does us a favour, we immediately feel that we should also do something for them or for someone else in order to show our appreciation.
Favours cannot just keep flowing in one direction, towards us, all the time.
This is the basis of tithing.
We must give something back to show appreciation for what we have received.
Look at Israel.
They are a special people as they are God’s only chosen nation.
Down the middle of Israel runs the Jordan river. This is also a special river as it does not run into the ocean. Jordan flows into the northern part of the Sea of Galilee and then flows out of the southern part. Thus the Sea of Galilee receives water and then gives water. This makes it a healthy body of drinkable fresh water that is full of fish.
Then the river Jordan flows into the northern part of the Dead Sea but no river flows out of the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the lowest portion of the earth’s surface and thus no water can flow away from it. Water can only flow towards it. So all this accumulated water cannot flow anywhere and has become full of salt and chemicals. You cannot drink the water and it has no fish.
So the lesson we learn is that water must flow in and out if it is to stay fresh.
There must not just be a one-way flow.
The Dead Sea is dead. Why? Because it receives but it does not give.
I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
If we live on planet earth we are subject unto two powers, God and the government ( which was called Caesar in Jesus’ day ).
Both require something from us.
17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute ( tax ) unto Caesar, or not?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
Jesus basically said that we must pay Caesar ( the government ) whatever taxes they demand. But we must also meet our obligations towards God.
Caesar, a symbol of the government, provides us with electric energy, roads, street lights, harbours, airports, hospitals, schools, universities, policemen, doctors, nurses, teachers, orphanages and so forth.
We benefit from all these facilities that are given to us but we must also pay for them in the form of taxes and tolls. We pay according to what we earn, a tax on our income.
We pay these taxes every month as a deduction on our salaries. We have no option.
From God we get the benefits of life, health, eyes that can see, a brain that can think, the air that we breathe, the promise of Heaven and the ability to make a living. Without air we would be dead in a few minutes.
God then gives us the free choice.
Do we appreciate what God has done for us?
Are we prepared to give something back? Can we give of our own free will?
The first man to pay tithes was Abraham. The word “tithes” means “a tenth”.
Abraham was never told to pay tithes. He did it of his own free will. He was so grateful that he had won the battle against the kings. He realized that it was God’s help that enabled his few servants to destroy these kings and their armies. He believed that God had helped him and he expressed his gratitude by giving back one tenth.
How much has God helped you? You can judge that by seeing how much you have given back to God.
Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
( Notice, Melchizedec never told Abraham to pay tithes.)
Who was this Melchizedec?
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
Melchizadec was never born and he never died. He had no human father. He had no human mother. So Melchizadec was God who simply created a human Body for Himself from the dust. God then stepped into this human Body and thus He could meet Abraham as a fellow Man. He then returned to Heaven afterwards and His Body returned to the dust. But in this Body, God had not fully shared the human experience of Abraham because He had not started as a baby and then grown up through Childhood to become a Man. That would happen in the New Testament.
In other words, when Abraham met Melchisadec, Abraham actually met God.
And his first reaction to this great experience was to pay tithes.
In the presence of God we humans think less of ourselves and are thus inspired to give rather than to take.
If you cannot pay tithes it is because you have never really met God in your heart.
Only one person can live in your soul. That is self or God. They do not share.
When self rules your soul then you are selfish and cannot give.
When God rules your soul then you can share and focus on others.
When God rules our souls, then we become humble because we are nothing in comparison to Him.
Being humble does not mean we think less of ourselves, it just means that we think of ourselves less.
And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.
Abraham had killed the kings and had won a great victory. Giving tithes to God was to show appreciation for the victory that he had been allowed to win.
Paying tithes is a symbol that we have won a victory over self.
If you slay self, if you die to yourself and thus stop selfishness ruling in your soul, then you are free to pay tithes as a sign of appreciation.
If you cannot pay tithes it is because you have not yet won the victory against self.
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
Notice what a long term plan God had. God created a human Body for Himself and then as the High Priest of the Old Testament He had a ceremony with Abraham which involved God giving Abraham bread and wine, in remembrance of the death of the kings for their own sins.
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
About 1900 years later God was born into a Body of flesh ( Emmanuel, God with us ) and then as the High Priest of the New Testament, Jesus had a ceremony with His disciples where He gave them bread and wine at the last supper, in remembrance of His own death for our sins.
I CORINTHIANS 11:23
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
Sadly, we are so involved with our short term struggle to survive and succeed that we do not become part of God’s bigger plan.
And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
Abraham admitted that he had won his battle only because God gave him the victory. It was not because of his own skill because Abraham was not a trained soldier.
Abraham gave God tithes of all. Not tithes of the portion that remained after he had paid taxes.
And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.
22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
23 That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:
24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.
Abraham wanted nothing for himself, he actually preferred to give away in the form of tithes rather than take something.
He only asked for a portion for three men, one of whom was Eschcol.
What significance does this have?
God gave Abraham the Promised Land of Israel. The Romans chased the Jews out of Israel in 135 AD after the revolt of Bar Kochba, the last Jewish zealot who tried to defeat the Roman armies. After that the Arabs took over Palestine. Then the Jews began to return after 1900 and in 1948 the Jews were given back part of Palestine as a homeland by the United Nations but they only received half of Jerusalem. They wanted Jerusalem because that is where Solomon had built his great Temple. In 1967 they won the Six Day war against the Arabs and finally won back all of Jerusalem, including the Temple site where Solomon had built the Temple.
When they got Jerusalem back in 1967, the man who was president of Israel was Levi Eshcol.
So Eshcol got his portion in Abraham’s day and then as a reward for Abraham, because he paid tithes, God also gave a portion back to Levi Eshcol in our day, which is almost 4 000 years later. So Abraham paying tithes had long term benefits for the Jews who followed after him. God never forgets an act of faith. He may wait a long time, but He will reward those who believe in Him.
The king of Sodom paid no tithes. The city of Sodom was destroyed soon afterwards when Lot left the city. Today scholars think that Sodom is actually covered by the Dead Sea. Such was the end for the city whose king did not pay tithes. Sodom just faded out of existence.
Which example do you follow?
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
Not paying tithes was not a good idea as far as God was concerned.
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Paying tithes had a promise attached to it. This is certainly to our advantage.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
Fasting and tithing were good things that Jesus did not criticize. What He did criticize was his attitude of self righteousness. So Jesus does not criticize people for paying tithes. He mentions that as a good habit, like fasting. But good habits must not make us feel that we are better than other people. We are sinners saved by grace. We are not better than other people, we are just better off if we serve God.
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
The early Christians used to have their meetings on a Sunday. This day of the week had become important because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday and the Holy Spirit fell on the church on a Sunday, which was the day of Pentecost. ( The church is the body of believers, not the building they worship in.) When they gathered together for a Sunday meeting, that is when they had an opportunity to give back to God. He wants us to pay depending on how much God has prospered us in terms of having a job and being healthy enough to make us able to earn an income.
To pay nothing would mean that God has not prospered you in any way. Then there is a serious communication problem between you and God which you need to sort out. The fault is always on our side, never on His.
What we give back to God is simply a testimony of how much God has done for us.
If He has done nothing for us, then it probably means that we do not know Him.
Then we have to change our way of thinking and begin to develop faith in Him and His Word.
Roman emperors, starting with Nero around the year 64 AD when he burnt Rome and blamed the Christians, killed 3 million Christians before the Roman empire collapsed in 476 AD.
Then 68 million Christians were killed by the Roman Catholic church during the dark ages or middle ages that ended around 1580 AD when these mad persecutions finally stopped. Countless missionaries were later killed when the missionary age began around 1800 AD. Millions of men, women and children in the past have thus been called upon to pay with their lives in order to believe in and serve God. That is a much bigger sacrifice than paying with money.
How much have we paid to God?
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
Communication involves giving and receiving. Those who are taught should give to those who taught them.
But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.
And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:
Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Believers made offerings as well to help others.
he elders distributed these funds.
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.