Our House Week 5: Coming Out of the Cave
When building a house, you start off with a strong foundation. This foundation, this framework, ultimately defines the way the house grows. What about this house? What defines us? Who are we in the body of Christ and to the community? Let’s start off this new year building a framework because this is what God has called us to. This is who we are. This is our house.
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. I’m often asked, as a pastor, and even more so as a professor, what my favorite book of all time is. I get asked that question. You know? What do you love? Of course, my answer is always going to be Scripture. And then, you know, when somebody says that, they’re like, “Yeah, but there are 66 books in the Bible. What is your favorite book in the Bible?”
It’s easier for me to address it the other way around. Let me tell you the one book of the Bible that I have no idea on what’s going on. That’s the book of Ezekiel. Can I get an “amen” on that one? If you’ve ever read that, it’s like, “Man, I don’t know.” I mean, I have two doctorates and I’m going, “Man, I don’t know about Ezekiel.” And I do struggle reading through Leviticus. All of God’s people should say “amen” on that one. So, that’s the way I address that. But there is a book, when I’m asked, outside of Scripture, without question, that I think is the greatest piece of literature that’s ever been written in the history of humanity. It’s Plato’s Republic. It was written in about 385 BC. I’ve been very fortunate. Not only did I get to take that book as a class, but I’ve also been entrusted to teach it at the seminary level. Me and Warren Gage — Dr. Gage. Many of you all know him. He’s a personal friend of mine. He was also my doctoral advisor for one of my doctorate programs. We flew out to Seattle about a year ago. Logos Bible Software, about three or four million users, the largest Bible software in the world, they have an academic arm called Mobile Ed. They bring in scholars and professors to teach certain things. We went in and taught Plato’s Republic. It’s just about to be released. We’re just really excited about that. It’s just a fantastic book.
And I don’t have time to get into the book, but I do want to use a little bit out of that to start off my message this weekend. In book seven — there are ten books in the Republic. In book seven, probably the most well-known part of the book is usually called the “Allegory of the Cave”, or “the Cave.” You might have heard it in high school or you might have heard it in college. But, oftentimes, I think it’s sort of a little interpreted in a way that it might not necessarily be the way Plato intended. It’s really a treatise on education. Basically, the point is that to get educated is painful. To have to unlearn things that you thought were true is really tough to do. In fact, most of us would rather just hold onto what we believe rather than be challenged to believe something else.
So, what he does — and I’m going to loosely paraphrase a little bit of literary work in book seven to just make the point here. What he says is there are people that are lined up and they are shackled where they can’t move at all. Their head can’t move. Their arms can’t move. Their legs can’t move. All they can do is look onto the cave wall that’s in front of them. Of course, they don’t know it’s a cave wall. To them, that is their reality. So, they’re sitting there. Behind them, that they don’t know is behind them, there are people that are parading puppets. The puppets are being paraded in front of a fire. That fire is casting onto the wall shadows. So, all these people know, all of their reality are shadows. That’s what they know to be true. And if you ask them, that’s what reality is. The smartest ones in the group can spot the shadows faster than the other ones. So, they even have a hierarchy of who’s smarter and who’s not as smart by how fast they can understand the shadows as they go marching across the wall.
Plato says, “Imagine, now, if somebody came and unshackled some of these people. What would happen?” Well, first of all, they couldn’t move because their muscles would’ve atrophied. So, to be removed from where they are, they would have to be drug, which means they’re going to skin knees and arms. It’s not going to be fun. And when they’re turned around, the first thing they’re going to see is a fire, which their eyes are going to be just absolutely shut because they’re not used to it. All of a sudden, now their brains are taking in stuff that they’ve never seen, ever before. It’s in contrast. It’s like, “Is this real? Is this not real?” As they get drug up out of the cave, eventually, they come out of the cave and now they’re in the sunlight. Their eyes can’t even see again. They realize, “Oh, my gosh. There is a whole other world out here that I had no idea existed.” Plato says, “to get people educated, that’s basically what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to help them to be drug out to understand what’s going on.”
So, just to give you a visual image, this is Plato’s Cave. So, I’ll take you into the cave here. Here’s the shadows and the puppeteers. Here’s this guy up top. He’s like, “Whoa. What a world there is out here that I had no idea existed.” So, we should, as Christians — and let me say this: If you’re not a Christian in here today, and you just come here and you’re hanging out, and you just heard there was a cool movie screen at this church, so you showed up to see Plato’s Cave, we just want you to know that you are welcome here. You can belong here before you believe. So, just hang out with us. But if we are a Christian, and we’ve decided we’re in for Jesus, most of us can go, “Do you know what? There was a point in my life where I was living my life, I was doing the things that I thought were right, and I was living how I wanted to live. The reality is I met Jesus and it changed my life. All of a sudden, I realized life was not the way that I saw it to be.”
Now we’re outside of the cave. But there are so many other things that we have to come out of the cave on in our Christian life. A lot of times, you meet somebody who’s going through a marriage struggle. You’ll sit down with them and they’ll say, “You know, my wife or my husband, they’re just not fulfilled my needs.” That’s where you’ve got to get out Scripture and say, “Well, listen, the way this works is you’ve got to put them first.” They’re like, “Well, I’m not putting them first.” They’re going to fight in that cave because that’s what they know. But to get them out and to get them free, they’re going to have to understand some of the things of Scripture. We could go down the list with forgiveness, loving people and all that stuff. It’s sometimes counterintuitive to do the way God says, but it is the best life. It’s the most freeing life.
But this is what I’ve found. I’ve found that when you find somebody who says, “I’m all in for Jesus. I love Jesus. I want to follow Him.” most of the things, if you sit down and say, “Here’s what Scripture says, and this is what God says for you.” There might be a little bit of a fight here and there, there might be a little push here and there, but most people, as a general rule, when they say, “I’m in,” they’re willing to go, “If this is what Scripture says about my life, then I want to do what God wants me to do.”
However, there is one particular issue, there is one particular subject that it’s sort of universal, when you talk about it, that it almost seems like everybody wants to just stay in the cave. “Leave me alone. Just let me stay the way I’m doing it.” It’s in this area of our finances and in this area of our giving. I know some of you all just went, “I should’ve stayed home and watched the Super Bowl.” I know you just thought that. So, let me go ahead and weigh in on the greatest of all time argument. His name’s Jesus. Can I get an “amen” on that one? So, there you go.
I don’t know what’s the big deal about this Super Bowl deal anyway. Kentucky played basketball yesterday. That was the big deal. Anyway, when I talk about this, there’s so much reluctance. It’s like, “Oh, man.” Please, please, please put those walls down for a minute. I am not going to take your blood after service. I’m not going to take up an offering after service. I’m not going to do any of that. I’m simply going to teach. I think you’re going to — because the last three services, I can tell you this: They’ve all said, “This was really, really, really good what you did. You helped me to understand some things.”
That’s what I want to do. Please understand something. When you talk about giving in church, people are like, “Oh, man. Giving.” It’s also difficult for us, as pastors. You may not think that it is, but here’s the struggle: As a pastor, you want to be godly. You want to share Scripture. You want to teach Scripture in every area of life. But, at the same time, you’d be a liar if you didn’t say that you want people to like you. You’d be a liar if you didn’t say that you don’t want people to come back.
So, it’s difficult for us. It just makes this whole thing somewhat difficult. But let me put it in simple terms. It’s just part of living a Christian life. It shouldn’t be any different than talking about marriage, prayer or anything else. It’s just part of it. I do this once a year, twice a year, at the beginning of the year, to talk about this. And then we do other things. But I feel like it’s important to talk about at the beginning of the year, because that’s when we’re starting to establish certain things. So, what I want to do is I want to spend the next three hours — I’m sorry. The next thirty minutes talking about — and I’m going to go through the Old Testament and the New Testament. I want to talk about giving, I want to talk about finances, and I want to talk about this word that people hear: Tithe.
Most people, when they hear tithe, they hear, “Isn’t that the Greek word to run?” So, I want to talk about it because most people don’t even know what these words mean or how we even got to why we do these things. That’s what I want to help do today. I just want to teach. So, there’s nothing going to go on after this. We’re not going to meet you outside and try to do a wallet flush or anything like that at all. I’m just going to teach. I’m hoping that you’ll walk out of here going, “Wow. I really now understand why these things are the way that they are.”
So, we’re going to go through the Old Testament, we’re going to look at some of the New Testament, and then we’ll do some diagnostic take-homes and we’ll get out of here. I promise you that you’ll go, “Wow. That was pretty cool.”
So, here’s the question that I have. First of all, what in the world is a tithe? Well, it’s 10%. You may go, “Where did they come up with this thing? I know I’ve heard it in church before. Where did they come up with it?”
That’s what I want to try to answer. I just want to sort of teach. The first word that we get on tithing, or 10%, you’re reading through Genesis, and by the time you get to Genesis 14, you already have heard this word “tenth.” It happens where Abram, who becomes Abraham, has gone with a bunch of kings and they’ve conquered these other kings. They’ve got the spoils from the war and Abram is coming back with one of the kings that he went to war with, the King of Sodom. He meets this guy named Melchizedek. When he meets Melchizedek, he meets him. He’s the King of Salem. Many people think that this is a pre-incarnate Christophany; that this is Jesus. Because when he meets him, he’s the King of Salem; probably the King of Jerusalem is what that is, because Jerusalem is the City of Peace. He offers Abraham bread and wine, which is interesting. It’s like an early communion. It’s like, “That’s sort of crazy.”
And here’s what Scripture says about what Abram does. It says, “And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” It’s like, “Why did he do that? Where did he come up with that idea? Ten percent?”
Where does he come up with that? You should be asking these questions when you read Scripture. Why are they doing that? And that’s a great question to ask. We need to ask these questions. But this is what Scripture says. He gave him a tenth. So, we’re 14 chapters in and we’re already hearing 10%. Tenth. Well, what does that mean? Well, the next time we hear this is in Genesis 28. If you were raised in church, you probably will remember this story. If you weren’t raised in church, it’s okay. But it’s the story where Jacob has a dream. It’s usually called “Jacob’s Ladder.” Of course, we think of ladder. It was actually, really, a ziggurat, but that’s a whole other subject. I’m going to stay off my ADHD to start going into ancient Near Eastern stuff. We’ll just stay with what it is.
He had a dream and he saw angels going up and down this supposed ladder. It’s a moment for him. He has a moment with God. As he’s sort of debriefing and talking to God after this dream that he had, this is what he says in Genesis 28. He says, “And of all that you give me, I will give a full tenth to you.”
It’s like, “Where did he come up with that idea? Why did he say that?” You should be asking that question. Why is that there? There’s no law at this point, so it’s like, if you’re going, “Well, the law said we ought to give 10%,” there’s no law here. There’s no law at all. Charlton Heston has not been born. Moses has not come on the scene as of yet. Okay? So, we should be asking the question, “Why is that there?” Well, if you’re going to do what I do, which, I mean, I teach as a professor and I’m a pastor, you sort of have to go, “Okay. I’ve got to figure this out. Why is this being said? Is there something that I missed along the way that I should’ve caught that I didn’t catch?”
And I think that there is. I think that we have to go back. There’s something that — and, again, sometimes reading the Bible is really easy. Sometimes, you’ve got to dig to get what’s going on. In this instance, I think we have to dig a little bit. Well, in Genesis 3, if you remember, if you’ve read Scripture — if not, I’ll tell you the story. Adam and Eve sinned against God and they got kicked out of what was called the Garden of Eden. So, they’re kicked out of the garden, and Genesis 4 is where we pick up them being kicked out of the garden. They have a couple of kids. Cain and Abel. They’re not like Chip and Mindy and had 47. They had two.
But they had their two kids, Cain and Abel. And then, in Genesis 4:3, we’re told something interesting. We’re told this word here: “In the course of time.” Now, I don’t believe there’s any surplus in Scripture, so when I read that, I’m like, “There’s a reason.” So, whatever has happened here, the writer is telling us that there’s been some time that’s gone by. It appears, when we find out what happens next, that there must have been some sort of instruction or something that they’ve heard from God about what to do with their stuff. God wants you and me to trust Him in every area of our life, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. And it appears that God also taught them something about what to do with your stuff.
In the course of time, here’s what happens: “In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground,”
That would make sense. He is a farmer, so he’s bringing what he has as an offering. Why does he have this idea of giving an offering? Because, probably, “in the course of time” is letting us know that there has been some instruction here. God has probably told them a lot of things, but one of the things it appears that He has said is that there’s a way to approach stuff in trusting God.
“In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel [his brother] also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.”
He’s a shepherd, so he’s bring his stuff. And Cain brings his stuff. And then we’re told this:
“And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.”
Well, that should make you go, “So, hold on here. We have somebody offering something. Why is God honoring one offering and not the other?”
If you just had the text in front of you, I’ve got to be honest with you, it would be really difficult to understand. I know some people are like, “Oh, that’s because it was animals and blood sacrifice.” Nope. Law hasn’t come. That’s probably not what’s going on. What we’re told in the book of Hebrews — and thank God we have the New Testament — is that Abel’s offering was done in faith, which mean’s Cain’s offering was not done in faith. So, now we’ve got to go back and say, “Well, where’s the faith here?” And then, when you really pay attention to the words, it starts to make sense. Abel offered the firstborn of his flock. I want you to think about this for a second. Here you have the firstborn. Okay? You have no guarantee you’re going to have a second-born. So, he gives to God his firstborn in faith, trusting that God is going to give him a second-born. He’s trusting God. Cain just had an abundance. Out of his abundance, he just decided to give God some of what he had.
Well, that doesn’t please God. That wasn’t what God was looking for. God was looking for faith. And here’s the beauty. In all of our lives, this is such an important concept to get. And then the giving thing goes down and all the ickiness goes away, in every area of your life, no matter what we want to talk about. In forgiving people, loving your wife, treating your children the way you treat them, loving enemies and all this stuff, the thing that we’re required to do is to have faith because we’re told that the only thing that pleases God is faith. That’s what pleases God. So, when it comes to our stuff, there’s got to be a way for us to have faith. That’s called giving Him this first. Giving Him the first, saying, “I’m trusting You,” because it’s a lot easier, if you want to be honest, to say, “I’ve got all my stuff. Everything’s handled. All this is here in a nice, tidy package. Now, what I’ll do is I’ll give some of this.”
There’s no faith involved in that. That’s just a transaction. But when you say, “I’m giving You first and I have no guarantee that there’s going to be second,” that’s faith. God says, “I like faith. That’s what I’m wanting you to do.”
So, what we’ve got here in Genesis 4 is we must have had some sort of understanding where God is saying, “Hey, here’s the way you do stuff.” Just like when we say what do you do with your wife? You put your wife first.
“Well, hold on. How do I know she’s going to...”
No, no. You’ve got to put her first because that’s honoring God. That’s faith.
“Well, somebody did me wrong. What do I do? I’m going to get them back.”
No. You’re going to forgive them.
“Yeah, well they might do it to me again.”
Yeah. You forgive them.
“But, but, but...”
No. That’s called faith. You’re trusting God. God wants us to have faith. So, this firstborn becomes a principle all through Scripture that we give God the first of what we have, trusting Him in this area of our life, just like we do it in every other area of our life. So, then, all the walls should go down. There should be no ickiness at all because all we’re talking about is just the way that we live our life across the board. And anything that we talk about in Christianity, we can talk about this because that’s the way God responds to you and me. So, anything I teach should be teaching you to trust God with your lives, and this just happens to be an area that we should talk about because it is incredibly biblical. So, you can see, as time goes on, we eventually come to the law. Okay? And when the law is given, there’s a reason this firstborn and this 10% is used by God to fund the Levitical priesthood. So, what God says — He doesn’t need your money. He doesn’t need your crops. He doesn’t need any of that stuff. He says, “I want you to trust me. In trusting me, what you’re going to do is you’re going to provide for my house, and then my house can do the work that it needs to do, which is spiritual things, so that it can take care of other people.”
So, by the time that we get to the wisdom literature, it’s sort of understood. It’s understood that you honor the Lord with your wealth. That’s just what you do. And we’ve got to understand something. We’re living in an agrarian society for most of the Old Testament, and we’re moving to a cash society in the latter parts of the Old Testament. But, initially, it was all agricultural stuff. So, what do you do? If you don’t have any money, you can’t go, “I’d like to have your donkey.” What you have to do is you have to go, “I’ve got a rooster, a rabbit, and this daughter that I’d like to trade for your donkey,” or however they would do it. You know?
“I don’t want that. I want the cow.”
It’s like this, “We’ve got five. We’ve got ten.” All this stuff going on. It’s a bartering system. Well, we’re moving from a bartering system to a financial system. So, by the time we get to Proverbs, we’ve got both going on. But this idea of firstfruits, that’s a tough gig. Imagine if you’re a farmer and the first stuff that comes up, you’ve got to give to God. There may not be any second stuff that comes up. That’s faith. That’s faith. So, now we’re told to honor the Lord with our wealth because now we’re starting to figure out what we do with money stuff. Now we know what we need to do with stuff stuff.
“Honor the Lord with your wealth and the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
The idea here is that if you trust God, if I trust God, that God will take care of us. That’s just sort of a biblical principle in every area of Scripture. We have to trust God. Well, as all of this sort of starts to unfold, and everybody understands the drill, the idea of a tenth is that whatever money you get, the first 10%, not the last 10% — the first 10% goes to God because you’re trusting Him. If you have agricultural stuff, then the firstfruits go to God. The idea is that we’re trusting God. It’s not about the money. It’s not about the fruit. It’s not about the food. It’s about faith. In every area of our life, that’s the deal.
So, what happens is as we get towards the latter part of the Old Testament, we’re told something that is, once again, very revealing. The children of Israel are in an economic downturn. Things are really bad. I mean, they’re not doing well at all. A prophet comes along and he writes what we call a dialogical dialect. He asks questions and responds as if the questions being asked, and God is responding, and people are responding. He says this to people who are in really tough economic times: “Will a man rob God, yet you are robbing me?”
Now, when you read that, I hope you would do this. I hope you’re going, “How do you rob God? How do you do that?” Well, that’s exactly what he says. But you say how have we robbed you? God, I wasn’t in 7-Eleven and I grabbed Your wallet when You weren’t looking. You know? I didn’t find Your credit card on the ground and say, “Oh, God. Visa. Identity theft, baby. I’m going to use God’s credit.”
That’s not — you’re like, “How do we rob You? How would you rob God? Come on. You’re saying we robbed You. How would we rob You?”
God says, “Well, in your tithes and your contributions. See, you guys are having a hard time, and you’re economically in a bad situation, so what you’ve done is you’ve stopped giving. And it’s not the money, it’s the trust here. You’re not honoring in me in tithes, which is the first 10% or the firstfruits, and then you’re not going above and beyond with your contributions, like really trusting me with your money. You’re not doing that at all. He says, “In your tithes and your contributions.” He says, “And you’re cursed with a curse.”
In other words, when you look around and see how bad things are, just go back to the way they are. I know a lot of people take this and make people feel guilty. You get on TV and they’re like, “You’re cursed.” He’s talking to Israel here. I think, by application, we can say we don’t want to be in a situation where we’re not trusting God. But none of that guilt is going on. He’s just talking to them. He says, “The curse that you have right now, the fact that everything’s so bad, is because you’re robbing me; the whole nation of you. You’re hunkered down because you don’t have enough. And because you don’t have enough, you’re not going to give. But I want you to give and trust me.”
He says, “So, what I want you to do is I want you to bring the full tithe. Not some of it. Not a little bit. Bring the full tithe to the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Put me first.”
Notice here something, too. He says, “Bring.” Nowhere in Scripture are we ever told any other word about firstfruits or tithing other than “bring.” You cannot give God a tithe, you cannot give your firstfruits. There’s no giving involved. He says, “That’s mine. You can’t give it to me. You bring it to me.”
And this is really important to understand this because people are like, “I don’t want to give.” You can’t give this. God says, “This is what I want from you.” And He doesn’t need it, but what He’s saying is, “I want you to bring it to me because, in bringing it to me, you are trusting me in this area of your life.”
Just like we could talk about every other area of life. We could talk about trust. This is just the area that we’re talking about.
He says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts,”
It’s like, “Whoa.” This is the only place in all of Scripture, because God knows this is a tough issue for all of us. John Wesley, the great preacher, in his whole life work, a lot of it was built on this idea of sanctification. He’s like the real big guy. He had an Aldersgate experience and all this stuff. Sanctification. John Wesley always said this:
“The last part of any human to be sanctified is their wallet.”
You know? It’s true.
He says, “And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”
He’s like, “Trust me here.”
This is just an area, just like in your marriage, just like with your kids, or just like with people that offend you, “Trust me. Trust me in this area. I know it’s tough to trust me right now because it’s hard to have that faith to believe. But trust me. Put me to the test.”
Now, that gives you an idea of where tithing, like in the Old Testament, and giving and all that stuff, but the question that you should be asking — and it is a good question — is does that apply to me at all? Because that’s like the Old Testament, and now we’re in the New Testament, and how does that work? We could definitely make the case that tithing and offering and stuff was before the law, so you can’t just say, “Well, we’re not under the law,” because that stuff happened before. But is that applicable to us? Is it not applicable to us? How does this work in my life?
I think that’s a great question and I think it’s a question that needs to be answered. But what I will tell you is this: This is what I found as a pastor. Anybody who tells me, “You know what? That’s not for me. That’s an Old Testament thing,” I’ve never found anybody that makes that statement that gives even 10% to the Lord. I’ve never found that. Because what it is is a crutch to say, “I just don’t want to trust God with my finances.”
What I can tell you is this: Grace, in the New Testament, never does less than the law. Grace always does more than the law. Always. Always. In every way. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Don’t resist the evil person, Jesus says. That’s even more. Yeah. Turn the other cheek. Grace always does more. Grace is not less than law. Grace does more than law. And that’s so important to understand here. The law was the law. We’re not under the law. But we have to start asking these questions. What’s going on here?
So, what I would like to do is I would like to just talk to you about the New Testament because I think there are some things I can show you in the New Testament that you might not have ever seen. They might help you in understanding what’s going on here because this is not about your money. This is not about guilt. This is about do I trust God in this area of my life like I trust God in other areas of my life?
That’s simply all this is. Well, if you remember, we had a story in Genesis 14 about Melchizedek. This guy, we don’t know who he is and all of this. Well, in Hebrews 7 — and Hebrews is a really difficult book to read, let me just tell you, because what it is is it’s a sermon that’s using what we call Midrash commentary. It’s a Jewish commentary on Old Testament Scriptures. So, if you don’t know how to read all that stuff, the book of Hebrews really will bog you down. But what I can tell you is, in a simple form, that the book of Hebrews says that Jesus is greater than all of the things that were found in the old covenant. He’s the fulfillment of all of it. He’s greater than all of those things. So, that’s the bedrock understanding. But, in Hebrews 7, we pick up this Melchizedek thing again, and it’s a long, lengthy commentary. You kind of have to work through it here. But it’s interesting what is said.
It says, “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,”
We talked about that. He came back from the kings and had a bunch of spoils. He meets Melchizedek.
It says, “And to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything.”
We already read that. Genesis 14. We got that.
It says, “See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!”
The idea is like, “Why would Abraham give this guy 10% if he wasn’t greater than Abraham?” That makes sense. This guy must’ve been a pretty great guy. He must have been a pretty important guy that Abraham would give 10% to. Pretty simple. Makes sense. Got it. Okay? Continue on.
“And those descendants of Levi...”
Now, we have to understand, like we talked about. The Levitical priesthood system was set up. They ran the temple. Everybody that would tithe would give to the temple so that the Levitical priests could continue to do the things that they did so that they didn’t have to go out and do jobs. What they could do is they could stay there and do the spiritual job. So, God got people to trust Him by giving the 10%, but it also worked for His house.”
He says, “And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people,” — we understand that, we just talked about that in the Old Testament — “that is, from their brothers, though these are also descended from Abraham.”
He’s starting to make a little bit of a point here. He’s saying, “Now, remember, all these people that are doing this, even Levi himself, are descendants of Abraham.” He’s going somewhere with this argument.
He says, “But this man [Melchizedek] who does not have his descent from them...” — in other words, he’s not in the Levitical priesthood — “...received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.”
And now he makes his point that he wants to make.
He says, “It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.”
In other words, Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. And then what he does is he goes, “If Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, and Levi was part of Abraham’s seed, that means that the Levitical priesthood is not a superior to the Melchizedek priesthood, and Jesus, who is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, is greater than the Levitical system.”
So, Jesus is greater than the Old Testament. A huge argument that none of us would be thinking about because that’s like first century stuff, but that’s the point that he makes because then he goes on to say, “One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham because he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.”
The point is that Jesus is greater than the Levitical system. What is really interesting in this passage is that the book of Hebrews is all about how Jesus is greater and has done away with all of the Old Testament stuff. It would’ve been the right place for him to have said, “And that also includes tithing,” but he doesn’t. He doesn’t say that at all. And you would expect that from him because he says over and over again that Jesus is greater than all of the stuff. It’s done away, the old covenant. But he could’ve just easily said it there, but he doesn’t. And this is a very smart writer.
We also have New Testament instances where Jesus Himself, when He’s speaking to the Pharisees and hypocrites — and He’s not in a very good mood there. You can see “woe to you.” He’s a little angry at them. He says, “You guys tithe mint, dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness.”
In other words, you guys tithe — and that’s great, I applaud that. But the bottom line is you’re missing out on some of the other things. And this is what Jesus says: “These you ought to have done. You should have tithed on your stuff, but you also shouldn’t have neglected the others.”
Some people go, “Oh, well the New Testament doesn’t say anything about tithing. Jesus never said...”
He does. He says you ought to. You can argue with me. That’s why I’m like, “I’m out of this. We’re just talking here about what Scripture says. I just want Scripture to speak.”
It’s like when you talk to people about certain subjects. They don’t want to hear it, but the bottom line is this is what Jesus says. You ought to have done that. He could’ve said, “You don’t need to do that anymore, man. I’m getting rid of that stuff.”
He doesn’t. So, in my mind, when I look at this idea of tithing and this idea of finances, here are just some thoughts that I would suggest we think about. These are just some thoughts. Just let these thoughts in your mind and see where they go.
First point: I think that it is impossible to conclude — it’s just impossible to conclude — that giving isn’t part of following Christ. It’s just impossible. You just can’t read Scripture and come across with the fact that Christians are not supposed to be givers. And that’s not just money. That’s time. That’s effort. That’s talent. There’s just no way in the world. But there’s always somebody — and we need to talk about this — that says, “The only reason you do this is because you want my money.”
That’s not true. Let me combat that type of thinking with giving you some sort of other way to think about this. If I talk about adultery — if you’re a Christian in here and I say, “Adultery is just something we shouldn’t do,” I think most Christians would be like, “Yeah, Chip. You’re not saying that to someone because you’re trying to hurt them. You’re saying that because you think that them not cheating on their spouse is the better way to live life.”
So, it would be like you saying to me, at this point, “You just want to control me by telling me that shouldn’t cheat on my wife.”
I’m not saying that at all. You may think that, but that’s not why I would talk about that. Or spiritual gifts. If I said, “Hey, listen, God’s got a plan for your life. God has something for you to do in the body of Christ. God has something He’s wired you to do. We want to help you find that. We want to help you serve in the church. We want to help you serve outside of the church.”
And if you said to me, “Well, you just want to use me when you tell me about this,” that’s not what we’re doing here. You’re not listening to what’s being said when you take that attitude. This is just being a Christian. It would be impossible to conclude that following Christ wouldn’t include loving others. It would be impossible to conclude that following Christ means that you shouldn’t treat your wife great. It would be impossible to conclude that, following Jesus, we shouldn’t love enemies. It would be impossible to conclude, if we follow Jesus, that we’re not givers. It’s just part and parcel of being a follower of Christ.
And what that looks like in our life — and we’re all here on this scale. I want to put this scale up here because everybody falls somewhere on this. Maybe you’ve never given, so you’ve not given, but maybe you’re a first-time giver in your life. Maybe you’re an occasional giver, which means that you sometimes, periodically think about possibly giving. You know? Maybe you’re an intentional giver which means every week you come in and you sort of write the same amount every week. Then maybe you’re a tither. Maybe you genuinely say, “I’m going to give God 10%.”
But then there’s extravagant giving, which means, “I’m not just giving God what’s His, I’m going to go above and beyond in offerings and help support missions and help do all kinds of stuff.”
Until we’re finally like, “I’m all in. Everything I have is God’s. Everything. When there’s a need to be filled, I’m the first guy or first girl to jump in there and do it.”
Everybody’s somewhere along here, but where we want to all go is, eventually, up here to all-in to be able to say that everything that we have is God’s and we are to steward it. We’re going to have to give an account for everything that God has given to you and I. That’s where we ultimately want to go. So, when we talk about this stuff here, we’re not trying to given anybody a hard time. We’re just saying, “This is the way it works, and everybody falls along this line.”
The second thing that I would tell you, some things to think about, is this: There’s always a correlation drawn in Scripture to what’s given and what’s received. You reap what you sow. You know that to be true. If you put a couple of seeds in the ground, you’re not going to get a ton. You’re going to get the couple of seeds that you did. And I know this has been a bused. I know this has been abused. You get on TV late at night and they’re like, “Give ten bucks here and you’ll get a jet for Jesus.”
That’s not what we’re talking about here at all, in any way, shape or form. But it doesn’t change this here. There is a correlation and it does apply to our finances. Jesus says it this way: “Give and it will be given you.”
And I know some people take this and yank it out of context and make it say things that it shouldn’t say, but He still said it. If you give, it will be given to you. And listen to the way He says it will be given to you.
“Good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, it will be put in your lap.”
That’s not me. That is Jesus saying that. And I know there are guys on TVs, and girls on TV, that’ll tell you all kinds of crazy stuff about this, but this is what Jesus said. What He’s saying is, “When you give, when you trust, I’ll always do way more than what you gave.”
You can’t out-give God. That’s just the bottom line. He always does exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think. When I read this — hey, does anybody like Chinese takeout? Okay. I love fried rice. I go in there and I’m like, “That box right there.”
What they do in the back is they cram that rice in there, they shake it, they cram that rice in there, they shake it. When you get home and you open that box that you thought was this, it’s like a five-gallon drum of fried rice. You open it up and it goes all over the counter, all over the floor. The dogs come running, eating it, and you’re like, “Whoa, this is everywhere.”
Jesus says when you and I give, this is the way He responds. And it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be money. It just means that He responds to us being givers. Period. End of story.
And the third thing that I would say, and this is the truest thing of all: When we rob from God, we’re really robbing ourselves. You’re robbing yourself when you don’t trust God in these areas of your life because there is a blessing to watch God work, just like I would say it in your marriage, just like I would say it with your kids, just like I would say it in your prayer life, just like I would say it in your evangelism. When you don’t do the things that God has said, “Hey, go. This is what I want you to do,” you are robbing God when you don’t listen to what He has to say.
So, here it is. I’m going to ask two take-home things, and that’s it. I told you this is going to be easy. I told you it’s not going to be hard. All I want to do is ask you two diagnostic questions. If you’re here and this is your house — you go, “I’m in. This is my house. But do you know what? I really don’t trust God with my finances that much at all. I just don’t. That’s just where I’m at. I’m just there.”
Okay. All I would ask you to do is this. Would you ask yourself this question? Will I consider trusting God with my finances and help support our house? That’s it. That’s all I’m asking you. Will you just consider what I said with Scripture and ask if what I told you was true, is there something true about giving, and would you just trust God? And I put here “help support our house” because I do believe that this is true. I sat under the ministry of a guy whose name was Floyd McClung. He was about 77 years old when I was in college. Every offering, he would get up, and he was like a preacher, preacher. He wasn’t like me. I sort of talk and whatever. He said, “Church, I’ve got good news this morning!”
He’s banging on the pulpit. He goes, “Every penny of every amount of money that we need to do everything God has called us to do is right here in this sanctuary this morning. But the problem is it’s in your wallet.”
And it’s true. It’s true. They’ve done studies. When you take a church, if everybody in the church gave 10%, every church in America would have so much more than what it needs to do every ministry that it needs to do because that’s the way God designed it. Okay? Now, if you’re someone in here and you’re like, “I do give, and I’m sort of in. I’m an occasional. Maybe I’m even intentional. Maybe I’m a tither.”
The question I’d like to ask you is this: Would you consider trusting God with more of your finances to help support our house? You say, “Why are you saying that?” Because I believe, with all of my heart, that God is doing great things here. I mean, we baptized 35 people in 50 degree weather, raining. That’s incredible. Okay? You look around and there’s — we were the 82nd fastest-growing church in America last year. We’re probably going to be in the top 50 this year. I mean, it’s just like God is doing all kinds of stuff. Here’s what I’m saying: If your marriages aren’t right, it’s going to ruin our witness here in the church. If we’re not praying for our kids, if we’re not doing a great job in the children’s ministry, we’re not going to do as good a job. All of these things matter, but it also matters when it comes to our finances.
So, that’s all I’m doing. That’s it. There’s no more ickiness, no more anything. You don’t have to go, “Oh, man.” That’s it? Yeah. That’s it. We’re done. So, I’m just asking you to think about it. Would you look at what Scripture says and would you consider it? That’s it. That’s all I want to do. So, let’s bow our heads, let’s pray, and let’s go have a great rest of the day.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You so much for Your Word. I thank You, Lord, that You stretch us. I thank You, Lord, that You create opportunities for us to have faith in You because that’s really where it’s all at. It’s in our faith. Do we believe? Do we believe in these areas of our lives that the way You want us to do it is better than the way that we want to do it? It just comes down to faith.
So, Lord, I pray that You would help us all to ask these questions. I pray, God, that today was a good day for everybody. I pray that everybody said, “You know what? We can talk about this and it’s not icky. You can actually talk about this and it didn’t make me feel guilty or anything. It’s just the truth here. I need to trust God in this area of my life like I have to trust God in every other area in my life.”
So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here today You would continue to lead, guide and direct us, I pray that You would watch over us and protect us, and I pray, God, that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. And I pray, God, that You would help us to stay totally focused on being what You’ve called us to be here at Grace. A church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Lord, we love You, we thank You, and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.