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Someone Cares Series
Human beings were created loving and trustworthy, but sin has made us self-centered, greedy, and dishonest. Therefore, out of love, God has created ways to help us develop love and trust again so that we can be comfortable in heaven, and in harmony with its unselfish spirit. Today we will study this part of God's plan of redemption.
1. Who is the owner of the earth and everything in it?
"For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:" (Psalm 50:10-14).
At the harvest and the vintage the first fruits of the field--corn, wine and oil--were consecrated as an offering to the Lord. The gleanings and the corners of the field were reserved for the poor. The first fruits of the wool when the sheep were shorn, and of the grain when the wheat was threshed, were set apart for God. So also were the first-born of all animals, and a redemption price was paid for the first-born son. The first fruits were to be presented before the Lord at the sanctuary and were then devoted to the use of the priests.
By this system of benevolence the Lord sought to teach Israel that in everything He must be first. Thus they were reminded that God was the proprietor of their fields, their flocks and their herds; that it was He who sent them the sunshine and the rain that developed and ripened the harvest. Everything that they possessed was His; they were but the stewards of His goods.
2. Money can be a great blessing, but what happens when we covet it and love it instead of the Giver?
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
The love of the world has crowded out the love of Christ. When the rubbish is cleared away from the door of the heart, and it is thrown open in response to the invitation of Christ, He will come in and take possession of the soul temple.
The present is our day of trust. A man may be avaricious, and yet excuse himself by saying that he is working for the cause of God; but he obtains no reward, for God does not want money that is obtained by over-reaching or by an semblance of dishonesty. Not money, but the love of money is the root of all evil.
3. Who gives us the skill and strength to acquire money?
"But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day" (Deuteronomy 8:18).
It is God who gives men power to get wealth; and in the hands of him who acts as God's steward, using His means unselfishly, wealth is a blessing both to its possessor and the world. But many, absorbed in their interest in worldly treasures, become insensible to the needs of God and the needs of their fellow men.
4. In one sense, we own nothing; everything we have is only loaned to us. When must we give an account of the goods entrusted to us?
"And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:16-21).
The rich man was in perplexity as to what he should do with his produce. His barns were full to overflowing, and he had no place to put the surplus of his harvest. He did not think of God from whom all his mercies had come. He did not realize that God had made him a steward of His goods that he might help the needy. He had a blessed opportunity of being God's almoner, but he thought only of his own comfort.
5. Since everything comes from God, and He has promised to provide for us, what attitude should we have about our daily needs?
"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" (Matthew 6:25, 26).
He who has given you life knows your need of food to sustain it. He who created the body is not unmindful of your need of raiment. Will not He who has bestowed the greater gift bestow also what is needed to make it complete.
Jesus pointed His hearers to the birds as they warbled their carols of praise unencumbered with thought of care, for "they sow not, neither do they reap," and yet the great Father provides for their needs.
6. Because God has promised to provide for us and we are not to worry, should we then be lazy and expect Him to make up for our lack of industry, planning, and frugality?
"For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:7-10).
Paul rejoiced that he was able to support himself by manual labor, and frequently declared that his own hands had ministered to his necessities. While in a city of strangers he would not be chargeable to anyone. When his means had been expended to advance the cause of Christ he resorted to his trade in order to gain a livelihood.
7. What portion of our wealth does God claim for Himself?
"And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD" (Leviticus 27:30).
He who gives men power to get wealth has with the gift bound up an obligation. Of all that we acquire He claims a specified portion. The tithe is the Lord's and He bids us return unto Him that which is His own. The pledge made by Jacob at Bethel shows the extent of the obligation.
8. What was the tithe used for in Israel?
"And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:" (Hebrews 7:5).
As the appointed ministers of the Sanctuary the Levites received no landed inheritance; they dwelt together in cities set apart for their use, and received their support from the tithes and the gifts and offerings devoted to God's service. They were the teachers of the people, guests at all their festivities, and everywhere honored as servants and representatives of God.
Today the tithe is to be used for the support of the ministry throughout the world.
9. Did Jesus recognize the principle of tithing?
"But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Luke 11:42).
Christ again condemns the abuse of sacred obligation. The obligation itself He does not set aside. The tithing system was ordained by God and it had been observed from the earliest times. Abraham, the father of the faithful, paid tithes of all that he possessed. The Jewish leaders recognized the obligation of tithing, and this was right; but they did not leave the people to carry out their own conviction of duty. Arbitrary rules were laid down for every case. As God gave it the system was just and reasonable; but the priests and rabbis had made it a wearisome burden.
10. Besides the tithe what else did the children of Israel give to further the work of the Lord?
"And Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD commanded, saying, Take ye from among you an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the LORD; gold, and silver, and brass, ... And they received of Moses all the offering, which the children of Israel had brought for the work of the service of the sanctuary, to make it withal. And they brought yet unto him free offerings every morning. And all the wise men, that wrought all the work of the sanctuary, came every man from his work which they made; And they spake unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the LORD commanded to make" (Exodus 35:4, 5; 36:3-5).
The tithe was to be exclusively devoted to the use of the Levites, the tribe that had been set apart for the service of the sanctuary. But this was by no means the limit of the contributions for religious purposes. The tabernacle, and afterward the temple, was erected wholly by freewill offerings; these were also to provide for necessary repairs and other expenses. From time to time sin offerings and thank offerings were brought to God.
Even before the tithe could be reserved there had been an acknowledgment of the claims of God. The first that ripened of every product of the land was consecrated to Him. The first of the wool when the sheep were shorn, of the grain when the wheat was threshed, the first of the oil and the wine, was set apart for God. So were the first born of all animals, and a redemption price was paid for the first-born son. The first fruits were to be presented before the Lord at the sanctuary and were then devoted to the use of the priests. Thus the people were constantly reminded that God was the true proprietor of their fields, their flocks and the herds; that He sent them sunshine and rain for their seedtime and harvest, and that everything they possessed was of His creation, and He had made them stewards of His goods.
11. What does God call those who withhold their tithes and offerings, and what does He promise to those who are faithful with their tithes?
"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" (Malachi 3:8-10).
All that men enjoy they receive from the Lord's great farm, and He is pleased to have His heritage enjoy His goods; but He made a special contract with all who stand under the bloodstained banner of Prince Emmanuel, that they may show their dependence and accountability to God by returning to His treasury a certain portion as His own. This is to be invested in supporting the missionary work, which must be done to fulfill the commission given to them by the Son of God just before He left His disciples. The command to pay tithe is so plain that there is no semblance of excuse for disregarding it.
12. What factors besides the amount of money are important when we give to God?
"And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had" (Luke 21:1-4).
The act of the widow who cast two mites--all that she had--into the treasury, is placed on record for the encouragement of those who, struggling with poverty, still desire by their gifts to aid the cause of God. Christ called the attention of the disciples to this woman who had given "all her living" (Mark 12:44). He esteemed her gift of more value than the large offerings of those who alms did not call for self denial. From their abundance they had given a small portion. To make her offering the widow had deprived herself even the necessities of life, trusting God to supply her needs for the morrow.
He taught that the value of the gift is estimated not by the amount, but by the proportion that is given and the motive that actuates the giver.
13. In what spirit should we give our offerings?
"Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
It would be better not to give at all than to give grudgingly, for if we impart of our means when we have not the spirit to give freely, we mock God. Let us bear in mind that we are dealing with One upon whom we depend for every blessing, One who reads every thought of the heart, every purpose of the mind.
14. Besides giving tithes and offerings to support God's work and workers, in what other kinds of giving should we become involved?
"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:34-40).
"When the Son of man shall come in His glory" and all nations are gathered before Him there will be but two classes, and their eternal destiny will be determined by what they have done or neglected to do for Him in the person of the poor and the suffering. In that day Christ does not present before men the great work He has done for them in giving His life for their redemption. He presents the faithful work they have done for Him. To the infinite love of the Redeemer every human being is indebted for the gifts of life. Rood and raiment and shelter, body and mind and soul--all are the purchase of His blood. And by the obligation of gratitude and service thus imposed Christ has bound us to our fellow man. The goods that we handle are not our own, and never can this fact safely be lost sight of. We are stewards, and on the discharge of our obligation to God and man depend both the welfare of our fellow beings and our own destiny for this life and for the life to come.
15. Where only is our money secure?
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:" (Matthew 6:19, 20).
God desires us to choose the heavenly in place of the earthly. He opens before us the possibilities of a heavenly investment. When the riches that moth devour and rust corrupts shall be swept away, Christ's followers can rejoice in their heavenly treasure, the riches that are imperishable.
Better than all the friendship of the world is the friendship of Christ's redeemed.
Treasure laid up on earth will not endure; thieves break through and steal; moth and rust corrupt; fire and storm sweep away your possessions.
It is for your own interest to secure heavenly riches. These alone, of all that you possess, are really yours. The treasure laid up in heaven is imperishable. It is in the keeping of God.
16. In what way are we affected by our giving habits?
"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21).
Character is the great harvest of life. And every word or deed that through the grace of Christ shall kindle in one soul an impulse that reaches heavenward, every effort that tends to the formation of a Christ-like character, is laying up treasure in heaven.
Where the treasure is, there the heart will be. In every effort to benefit others we benefit ourselves. He who gives money or time for spreading the gospel enlists his own interest and prayers for the work and for the souls to be reached through it; his affections go out to others and he is stimulated to greater devotion to God, that he may be enabled to do them the greatest good.
In the Adventist Church, ordained ministers within a given country receive the same basic salary regardless of the size of the church. The money given by church members does not go to them directly, but is sent to a central office for budgeting and distribution. The pastors encourage and lead the members into self-sacrifice and giving--not for themselves, but to help each one develop character and get ready for heaven. God does not need our money--He could rain down gold from heaven--but He is helping us to learn to trust Him, and to become loving and self-sacrificing as Jesus was. Jesus gave His life; what can we give in comparison with that?
Page created: 7/26/98 Updated: 11/24/2006
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