I remember once taking a class on Financial Freedom from Pastor Larry Osborne. The discussion of tithing came up. The giving of first fruits to God. Recognizing that it was all God’s anyway, so giving off the top to Him was sort of a no-brainer. Someone asked, it might have even been me, what about a millionaire? Does he give 100K or more? Does he give a million? And, what of a billionaire? Pastor Larry said something along the lines of: a tithe is given as a sacrifice, a gift to God thanking Him for His blessing. It’s not meant to be easy, i.e. if you have an exorbitant amount of money, then the more you give. By definition, a sacrifice hurts a bit.
Sacrificial giving is a scriptural principle put in place by God Himself. God practiced it Himself as an example to believers. He gave His Son, Jesus, so He could bring the whole world to Himself. This sacrifice cost Him something. He did it out of love for the world.
After Christ died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead on the third day, ascended into heaven to rule all things, and sent his Spirit to us, the situation changed for the New Testament church, because the Old Testament Laws had been fulfilled. The ceremonial laws which pointed to Christ had served their purpose. From Pentecost onward the rite of circumcision, the temple sacrifices, worship on the seventh day, and other observances lost their importance, and along with them, the practice of tithing seems to have fallen by the wayside in the early church. (Let me just say here, this blog is not about asking for your money, hang with me a bit.)
Even in the Old Testament tithing was never intended to be a mere drudgery or test of obedience. It was a joyful undertaking. It was an expression of fellowship with God, which was freely granted solely by God’s grace. It was the expression of a heart truly thankful to God for all his blessings in this life. It was a tangible opportunity to give all glory to God, who allows His people to honor him with their “substance” (Proverbs 3:9); even their gifts were deemed acceptable by the mercy of God. And, it was a concrete way for fellow believers in the Gospel to express their fellowship with each other and to care for each other in a very specific way. In God’s original design and laid out in the Old Testament, tithing is a Gospel activity through and through.
In this respect, nothing has changed for the people of God today. Under the cross of Jesus Christ, giving for the Lord’s work is still a joyous privilege, flowing from the Gospel itself. It expresses our gratitude to the God and gives all glory to him. With our hearts moved by the Gospel, we give cheerfully (2 Cor 9:7). God loves a cheerful giver. As God has accepted us through the forgiveness of sins, he also accepts by the same mercy our meager gifts and uses them in His kingdom. It’s not like God needs our money … it’s His money and He uses it for His kingdom and glory.
While giving for the Lord’s work obviously continued in the church, no amounts or percentages are prescribed in the New Testament. All that is said is that early Christians had everything in common (Acts 2:44), that they gave sacrificially (2 Cor 8:1-3), and that they gave as God had prospered them (1 Cor 16:2).
They “gave sacrificially.” This got me thinking about sacrifice. Where do we, as Christians, but also just as humans, sacrifice?
Looking back at my life, I now realize how many sacrifices my parents made out of love for my sister and me. I wish I had appreciated that more at the time. My father served in the military and died in combat during the Vietnam era. The ultimate sacrifice paid for our freedoms. That left my 30-year-old mother to raise two daughters alone. Through the course of my childhood, her personal sacrifices were many and no I didn’t appreciate them at the time. Teenage angst.
The whole idea of making sacrifices today seems more alien. We are such a “me” focused society. The vast majority of biblical references to ‘sacrifice’ are in the Old Testament. These passages foreshadow Jesus’ sacrificial death for us on the cross. In the New Testament, almost all the references are about Jesus’ sacrifice – the death of Jesus as the one perfect and complete sacrifice fulfilling all the Old Testament laws. We do not need to make any sacrifices for our sins. He did it for us. Yet the New Testament tells us that there are four sacrifices you can make that are pleasing to God.
Sacrifice of your lips – Praise
The writer of Hebrews says, ‘Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:15–16).
Much of the first eleven chapters of Romans are about the sacrifice of Jesus for us. Paul, having set out all that God has done for us, responds with a sacrifice of praise (Romans 11:33–36).
Sacrifice of your life – Worship
Paul continues, ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12-2).
God wants you to offer all of yourself and all of your lives – your time, ambitions, possessions, ears, mouths and sexuality – as well as your mind, emotions and attitudes. Paul’s description of a living sacrifice also reminds us that you must continually offer your life as a sacrifice to God, offering the whole of your life for the whole of your life. Worship is about what I say with my tongue. It’s about what I watch… what I think… where I go with my feet.
As Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message, ‘Take your every day, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering’ (Romans 12:1-2, MSG).
Sacrifice of your wealth – Generosity
Generous giving is another New Testament sacrifice. Paul encourages generosity in contributing to the needs of others (Romans 12:8). ‘Share with God’s people who are in need’ (Romans 12:13). This is another sacrifice the writer of Hebrews says pleases God: ‘to share with others’ (Hebrews 13:16).
We are even to give generously to our enemies: ‘Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness’ (Romans 12:20, MSG).
Sacrifice of your love – Service
In this passage Paul gives many examples of the sacrifice of loving service (Romans 12:9–21). He also says not to fake it. It comes from the center of your being. Of course, I’m a firm believer that sometimes you have to fake it until you make it and give God the opportunity to change you from the inside out.
The writer of Hebrews says, ‘do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased’ (Hebrews 13:16, MSG).
‘Doing good’ means giving up things that are not good. ‘Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold’ (Romans 12:2, MSG). Although God only asks us to give up the bad stuff in our lives, it can feel costly to do so because that stuff is superficially attractive. Repentance is a very positive word, but at the time it may seem sacrificial.
Sacrificial love involves allowing God to transform us by a complete change. Our love must be sincere (Romans 12:9). The Greek word for ‘sincere’ means ‘without hypocrisy’ or literally ‘without play acting’ or ‘without a mask’.
Often relationships in the world are quite superficial. We all put up fronts or masks to protect ourselves. When we see governments doing this, we call it ‘spin’. In today’s world, it can be spin or fake news. When we do it ourselves, we call it ‘image’; we are projecting something. In effect, we’re saying, ‘I don’t really like what I am inside, so I will pretend I am somebody different.’
If other people are doing the same, then there are two ‘fronts’ or ‘masks’ meeting. The sad result is that the two real people never meet. This is the opposite of ‘sincere love’. Sincere love means taking off your mask and daring to reveal who you are.
I think we have to remember to see ourselves as God does; as His son or daughter. I often picture myself (and others) as a toddler … still in training, so to speak. When you know that God loves you as you are, you are set free to take off your mask.
This means that there is a completely new depth and authenticity in your relationships. Instead of trying to impress people with our masks, as we reveal who we truly are with all our flaws, we connect through our fears and vulnerabilities.
Paul urges Christians to live in harmony with one another and to be generous, hospitable, forgiving, empathetic and to live at peace with everyone. It is a glorious picture of the Christian family into which God calls us, beckoning us into an atmosphere of love, joy, patience, faithfulness, generosity, hospitality, blessing, rejoicing, harmony, humility, and peace; where good is not overcome by evil, but evil is overcome with good. It just takes a little sacrifice.
Lord, today I offer you my body as a living sacrifice. I am available to you. I give everything I have to you again – my life, time, money, ambitions, plans, hopes and desires. Show me your good, pleasing and perfect will.
For God and you,