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Sunday, January 08, 2012

Those Who Honor God

SOMEONE HAS SAID, "THERE ARE THREE KINDS OF GIVERS: the flint, the sponge, and the honeycomb. To get anything out of the flint, you have got to hammer it. Then you only get chips and sparks. To get water out of the sponge, you have got to squeeze it. The more you squeeze, the more you get. But the honeycomb simply overflows with sweetness.

When a people understand what God has done for them, you don’t have to prime them to give and you don’t need ten collections. They understand that He is a great God. In fact, at offering time, we ought to jump to our feet and applaud that we are here to give, have something to give, and have been blessed to have strength enough to work that we might be able to give. We ought to just applaud the privilege of giving. Today, we want to explore what the writer of Proverbs 3:9, 10 says in this area concerning giving.

The writer exhorts his readers to honor God from their wealth and first fruits of their increase (v.9). There are many ways that we can honor God, but here, the writer is concerned about honoring Him through giving. The Old Testament scholars Keil and Delitzsch briefly declare, "It may surprise us that the Chokma [Heb., wisdom], being separated from the ceremonial law, here commends the giving of tithes." Within the Body of Christ there are two major views concerning giving, i.e., "tithes and offerings" and "grace giving." The former (tithing) is said by some to be under the law and is no longer binding and the later is viewed by some as the proper New Testament mandate for giving. Let us briefly examine the claims.

In hermeneutics, which is the art and science of biblical interpretation, there is a principle called the law of first mention regarding a word. We trace that word throughout the Scriptures to understand its use and meaning. Accordingly, the first mention of tithing in the Bible is found in Genesis 14:20, where Abraham gives Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils that he had acquired from four kings that he defeated in battle (14:1-16). This passage is significant for a couple of important reasons. First, Abraham’s offer of a tenth to Melchizedek transpired several centuries (ca. 400 to 500 years) before the institution of the Mosaic Law. Second, the writer of the Book of Hebrews contrasts the superior Melchizedekian Priesthood of Christ with that of the inferior and abolished Aaronic Priesthood in the NT (Hebrew 7). In addition, it is worth noting that tithing (or giving a tenth) is not peculiar to the Jews; archeological evidence reveals that other ancient people groups (non-Jews) during the patriarchal period practiced this form of giving too.

Accordingly, there is a lot of theology built around the mystical figure of Melchizedek and Abraham’s actions. However, this article cannot thoroughly examine them. Nevertheless, we can say that he is a type of Christ. What does the word type mean? The word "type" is an OT person, institution, office, event, action, place, or thing that God intended to correspond with a NT reality or truth in His redemptive plan. Now, per Hebrews 7:8-10, we see Jewish Christians tithing at the Temple in which they are no longer under the Law since Christ is the end of the Law, which is marked by His death at Calvary some 30 or so years later (John 1:17; Romans 10:4). Again, space does not allow me to elaborate in detail.

Thus, in contrast, grace giving is sacrificial giving (2 Corinthians 8:9). Paul commends the Macedonians for their sacrificial gifts given towards the "Jerusalem Relief Fund" to aid those affected by the famine prophesied by the prophet Agabus (Acts 11:27-30). Therefore, Paul is encouraging the Corinthian church to follow the example of the Macedonian church (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Finally, I would encourage an in-depth study of both passages (Heb. 7 & 2 Cor. 8-9).

In conclusion, my thesis is simple: "Tithing is a justifiable New Testament practice." If you disagree with this supposition, then consider this thought. If tithing is under the Law and the OT saints did it, then our giving under grace should be much more with the tithe being the minimal starting point; just thinking - Selah!

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