pure gold

September 25, 2015

Treasure after

Everyone knows that rewards work. If you are going to train a dog to do tricks, you better have some doggie biscuits in your pocket. If you are trying to potty train a toddler, rewards are pretty handy also. The credit card industry has also gotten the hint and they compete for our credit business by offering rewards to use for free flights, discounts, cash back or some other form of return. And we as consumers figure that since we have to buy stuff anyhow, we might as well get something back. It’s our human nature to look for rewards or return.

 

As we have studied financial giving in God’s word, we hopefully felt the need to evaluate our giving. And we probably have wondered what would happen if we did begin to give what we think God wants us to give. Would anything change for me? Would I be better off financially? Would I simply be better off spiritually? What would happen?

 

Hebrews 11:6 says that God “rewards those who earnestly seek him.” God rewards. It’s just the way God is. God is not in anyone’s debt.

 

The rewards we discuss in this study are not a deal we can make with God. He is sovereign and we can’t make Him do anything. Our motive must remain rooted in simple thankfulness for His grace. But we can know that when the books of earth are closed someday in eternity, no one will ever say that they give more to God than He gave to them.

 

 

 

Rewards

 

Everyone knows that rewards work. If you are going to train a dog to do tricks, you better have some doggie biscuits in your pocket. If you are trying to potty train a toddler, rewards are pretty handy also. The credit card industry has also gotten the hint and they compete for our credit business by offering rewards to use for free flights, discounts, cash back or some other form of return. And we as consumers figure that since we have to buy stuff anyhow, we might as well get something back. It’s our human nature to look for rewards or return.

 

As we have studied financial giving in God’s word, we hopefully felt the need to evaluate our giving. And we probably have wondered what would happen if we did begin to give what we think God wants us to give. Would anything change for me? Would I be better off financially? Would I simply be better off spiritually? What would happen?

 

Hebrews 11:6 says that God “rewards those who earnestly seek him.” God rewards. It’s just the way God is. God is not in anyone’s debt.

 

The rewards we discuss in this study are not a deal we can make with God. He is sovereign and we can’t make Him do anything. Our motive must remain rooted in simple thankfulness for His grace. But we can know that when the books of earth are closed someday in eternity, no one will ever say that they give more to God than He gave to them.

A Generous Woman (2 Kings 4:8-37; 8:1-6)

 

Around 850 BC, a wealthy woman in Shunem, about 5 miles south of Nazareth, one day asked Elisha the traveling prophet to eat at her home (2 Kings 4:8-10). He did so and her house soon became a regular stop whenever Elisha came through the area.

 

Helping Elisha must have somehow been rewarding to the woman, because she began to think of ways that she might be able to bless him even more. She told her husband that she wanted to build a small addition onto the home to give Elisha his own furnished room when he came. Then he would be able to come and relax there. What a blessing! And that’s exactly what they did.

 

This Shunamite woman was much like several families I have known in our church and elsewhere who have space in their homes that they developed largely to offer it to house missionaries while they are at home in the United States. They have generously spent their money and give their hospitality in the spirit of this Shunamite woman.

 

Now this woman didn’t do this to “get” anything. She didn’t make a deal with God that if she built this room for Elisha, she expected certain things back from God. She seemingly just gave as God led her. But what happened? Elisha wondered aloud if there was a way that He could bless her and his servant Gehazi mentioned that she didn’t have a son (2 Kings 4:11-13). Evidently it was a real desire of her heart that so far had not been fulfilled. So Elisha the prophet promised her a son. And God came through as Elisha promised! This woman who had been childless had a bouncing baby boy! God is certainly a rewarder! The blessing of a child was a far greater blessing to her than she had even been to Elisha.

A Generous God

 

Now the story doesn’t end here. This child grew and as a boy one day working with his dad in the fields, he suddenly died. Of course the woman was heart broken – and even angry at God and Elisha. She laid the body of her only son on Elisha’s bed in his room and went to find Elisha. In her bitter grief she said, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes” (2 Kings 4:28)?

 

So Elisha went to her house, prayed and laid himself over the body of the boy and God gave her son life again. God gave her a son to begin with and the God raised him from the dead, giving him to her again.

 

God is a giver. But we learn that when we give to God, there is no guarantee that life will suddenly be wonderful and without pain. When we give, we will still be tested.

 

There was yet another time when this Shunamite woman was tested – this time financially (2 Kings 8:1-6). Elisha told this woman to leave the land of Israel because God had revealed to him that a seven year famine was coming.

 

Evidently the Shunamite woman’s husband who was older had died by then because now she was a widow. So she left the country of Israel to avoid the famine. But what evidently happened in those days is that if you left the country for an extended time, your abandoned land would become either the property of the king or perhaps of a relative. But whoever had it, evidently it was no sure thing that you would get it back.

 

So when the Shunamite woman came back to the land, she went before the king to beg to get her land back. This is where God’s rewarding character is again obvious. When this woman comes to King Joram, Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, just happened to be talking to the king. Imagine that! And the king has just at that moment had asked Gehazi to tell him about his master Elisha’s miracles.

 

(2 Kings 8:5-6) “Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to beg the king for her house and land. Gehazi said, “This is the woman, my lord the king, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life.” {6} The king asked the woman about it, and she told him. Then he assigned an official to her case and said to him, “Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now.”

 

So how did this woman’s generosity work out in the long run? Her gifts to God were initially just meals for Elijah and then she built and furnished a small room for him. God’s gifts to her included the birth of a son, the resurrection of her son, advance warning of a 7-year famine and then God made sure she received her land back – plus seven years income!

 

God is an incredible rewarder to those who give to Him out of a grateful heart. But along with the principle we find in Old Testament scriptures the principle that those who refuse to give miss out on God’s blessings.

Robbing God of Tithes under the Old Covenant

 

In the time of Malachi the prophet (about 400 BC), there were serious spiritual problems in Israel. The book of Malachi addresses several of them. The Israelites were bringing God sacrifices consisting of their maimed animals (1:7-8). The priests had stopped teaching the word of God accurately (2:1-9). Furthermore, the Israelites had married unbelievers (2:11-16) and were divorcing their wives (2:13-16). They were even saying that evil people were good (2:17). Included in God’s rebuke through the prophet Malachi was proof that they had turned from God as shown by the fact that they stopped giving their tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:7-9).

 

At first they denied that they had turned from God (Malachi 3:7). They seems to have protested that they had done nothing wrong, What do you mean, return to God? I’m doing fine with God. I don’t need to change anything.

 

And then interestingly Malachi uses as their failure to give financially as evidence of their spiritual state. He tells them, You’ve robbed God. Now they are really sputtering. How do we rob God?

 

(Malachi 3:8-9) “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. {9} You are under a curse–the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me.” The failure to bring their tithes and offerings is called robbing God.

 

Tithes are a largely misunderstood part of Bible teaching about giving. “Tithe” is a Bible term that means 1/10th. Tithing was an obligation under the covenant of the Old Testament law. The first 10% of their crops went to God. The following chart describe the basic tithing requirements under the Law.

 

Giving Forms in the Old Testament

 

1. Regular Tithes = 10% of crops (income) given each year to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30) OBLIGATION

 

a. Provided regular income for Levites and Priests serving at the temple in Jerusalem (Numbers 18:21-26)

 

b. Provided means for having three special feasts in Jerusalem each year (or if they lived too far away, they could bring money – Deuteronomy 14:22-26)

 

2. 2nd Tithe every 3rd year = 3.33% OBLIGATION

 

c. Used to support the local Levites and the needy (Deut. 14:27-29)

 

3. Personal Offerings – Any other gifts (2 Kings 12:4; Mark 12:41 – voluntary vows, gifts). VOLUNTARY

 

There is some scholarly discussion and disagreement on the details of the tithing laws. It is possible that the feasting tithe (1/a above) was actually a 2nd separate tithe and thus it would mean an additional 10% tithe was required. This would actually make the annual “tithe” a total of 23.3% of one’s yearly income. But we’ll assume for now that it was part of the 1st tithe. Even then, the basic Israelite farmer would be giving an average of 13.3% per year as an obligation. Then they could and should give offerings above the tithe as thanks or praise.

 

These additional personal offerings were personal worship decisions. An example of this would be the widow at temple we studied who gave her two small copper coins while the wealthy threw in large amounts (Mark 12:41). These gifts were over and above tithing. When Josiah collected money to restore the temple, that was all above the tithes (2 Kings 12:4). And these financial offerings still did not account for many of the sin offerings and other offerings that involved animals or produce of the field.

 

So under the giving system of the Law, an obedient Israelite would be giving 13% (or maybe 23%) that was their obligation, plus whatever God led them to give above that in personal offerings.

 

Malachi rebuked the Israelites of his day who for the most part were not giving their tithes and offerings. He said that they had thus robbed God. As it turns out, they were actually robbing themselves of God’s blessings. Notice the promise of God to the Israelites if they were to repent of their failure to give.

Blessings for Giving in the Old Testament

 

(Malachi 3:10-12) “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “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. {11} I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. {12} “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.”

 

God is promising Israel financial success as a reward for tithing. Now before we start planning on building a new home and buying that yacht because we are going to give, we need to remember several things. 1) God’s purpose in rewarding us is not so that we can become selfishly wealthy. 2) We do not have the promise about tithing repeated today in the New Testament. We live under the new covenant and we actually don’t have a tithing law in the New Testament. No one can tell you that you must give 10% or 13% plus other voluntary offerings. That was the Old Covenant.

 

But it would seem a bit strange that we would make it our goal in this age of grace to do less than what was required under the law. In His teaching Jesus often challenged people to live by a higher standard now under grace than what Moses had required under the law (e.g. Matthew 5:27, 28).

 

So although the law of tithing and the financial promises of tithing are not in force today, we find from the words of Jesus and from the epistles of the New Testament that the general principle of God’s promises to givers are still true.

Blessings for Givers according to Jesus

 

Jesus taught the basic principle that God rewards those who are generous not only financially, but generous in spirit. Listen to the words of Christ.

 

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. What kind of reward? It doesn’t say – perhaps here, perhaps heaven. {36} Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. {37} “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:35-37)

 

People who do good to others generally find themselves blessed with the same kind of graciousness with which they treat others. God makes sure that happens somehow. Jesus says next that God gives back even more than a generous merchant.

 

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)”

 

A “good measure” meant that when you bought grain in the market, the merchant didn’t do to you what the potato chip people do to us. When we open the potato chip bag we often find it half empty when we think it’s going to be full. But a generous merchant would fill his measure to the brim and then press it down and shake it so it settles so he could get a little more in before giving it to you as the costumer.

 

Jesus says God is like that generous merchant – only more so! God will reward us in such abundance of blessings that they will be overflowing our basket and filling the robe in our lap. God is just that way! He will not be out-given.

 

What kind of giving is Jesus talking about? He could mean money, but He could also be referring to anything of ours that we give away – time, concern for others, encouragement, money or other material things. And what kind of return or blessing is Jesus promising? God may give back to us in many ways. In His miraculous way He can choose to bless us financially through finding us good deals, preventing high expenses or by providing raises or more hours and overtime. But it could be also be that God bless our “giving” by rewarding us with unexpected time to relax even though we had given away time to serve others. It could be that God miraculously bless our marriage, restores relationships or health or any number of good things.

 

At our church we need to replace our entire roof one fall. We hired a contractor who was willing to work with our volunteers. Many guys gave up their time in the evenings and Saturday to help on the project and the total cost was far below the estimate of having a contractor do it all. How did God reward those who volunteered to help? I don’t know all the ways, but I am confident that they were rewarded with joy, fellowship and even God’s provision of time that they needed for their own family and personal projects.

 

Those who give time regularly to serving others in their church, family and community are not shortchanged in the long run. Providentially, God takes care of the time needs of those who gave time, the financial needs of those who give financially and the encouragement needs of those who give encouragement.

 

From what we’ve seen from the Shunemmite woman and from the tithing promises of Malachi and Jesus’ words to us here, we can be sure that God will reward our financial giving. We may not get wealthy, but no one will get to heaven and think, Boy, I got the raw end of that giving stuff.

Blessings for givers in the church age

 

In the New Testament God’s promises to givers include a great variety of both spiritual and financial blessings. In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 Paul urges the church at Corinth to give to an offering he is collecting for famine relief for believers in Jerusalem. At the end of his exhortation he lists some of the blessings they will experience if they do.

 

If God is working in our heart to produce a new attitude of giving based on stewardship, contentment, trust and worship, then what God wants us to know very clearly from the following passages is that we will never regret it.

 

The general principle is exactly what Jesus taught: God blesses givers; “Whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-14). Here are other blessings Paul describes that will come just from participating in this offering for needy believers in Jerusalem.

 

1. We will have enough to live on (8). “…having all that you need.”

 

2. Our ministry will multiply (8,11). “You will abound in every good work… [God] will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

 

3. We will have enough to give more (10-11). “[God] will also supply and increase your store of seed … {11} You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion”

 

4. People will thank for supplying their needs (12) “… your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God … supplying the needs of God’s people…”

 

5. People will praise God for your obedience to God and generosity (13)… “Men will praise God for the obedience … and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.”

 

6. People will pray for you (14) “And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.”

 

If we are privileged to live the kind of life described above, our life will be richly blessed indeed! As I look over this list of God’s rewards, I find that all six of these blessing describe God’s reward on the lives of my wife and I. It certainly does not mean that there are not many other struggles or trials in our lives, but as we have given to God financially as He has directed us concerning our local church and other ministries, He really has given us these rewards.

 

To appreciate God’s rewards, we have to adjust our expectations. Those who teach that it’s God’s will that Christians should be wealthy appeal to the selfishness of our hearts. They suppose that “godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Timothy 6:5). The problem with that thinking is first of all that God never promises that in the New Testament and secondly, that if we give in order to live selfishly, we forfeit the real rewards God promised here.

 

If we struggle with a constant desire to be better off financially, we must note in the passage above what Paul promised the Corinthians. The reason why God will bless them financially is not so that they can spend it on upgrading their lifestyle, but so that they could give more. “[God] will also supply and increase your store of seed … {11} You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).

 

The principle is not that we should “Give to Get.” God’s word is saying that we should “Give to Get, to Give more.” God rewards that kind of an unselfish heart.

 

If you want to conduct a great experiment, try to out give God, the more you give away the more blessings seem to come into your life, notice I said blessings and not money.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

Since we don’t accept offerings or gifts on this web site I hope everyone realizes the motives of a pure heart, well maybe not a pure heart, but a honest heart, well maybe…………

Pray for Karen, extreme back issues, pray for Paul k, that he would trust God especially in obedience.

 

 

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