The scarlet thread of redemption is woven beautifully between the Old and New Testaments. In Leviticus 16, we observe the instructions for the Day of Atonement when two goats were presented to the Lord. The first was sacrificed and its blood sprinkled upon the mercy seat to make atonement for sin. Upon the 2nd goat, the priest placed his hands and confessed the sins of the people. This scapegoat, bearing the sin of all, was released into the wilderness. The psalmist proclaims, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
Now consider Jesus the true GOAT. He perfectly fulfilled the role of both goats. By sacrificing his blood to make atonement for sin, his blood satisfied the payment for our sins upon the heavenly mercy seat. As the scapegoat, on the cross, He bore our sin and carried away our iniquities.
Jesus is the mediator of the greater (New) covenant. On the cross, He willingly offered Himself as the greatest sacrifice demonstrating the greatest love of all time. He alone is worthy of our worship, and He alone can save. Hebrews 7 assures us, “He is able to save forever those who draw near to God though Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
Explanation: A few years ago, on of the Super Bowl players was given the accolade, “The GOAT” – the greatest of all time. This blog identifies the only one worthy of that title.
As a result of recent readings in Philippians 4 and 2 Corinthians 8-9, I began to question if tithing represents the New Testament idea for giving. I recognize the tithe is a is popular concept among the Christian money experts. While it is an easy handle to put on a complicated topic, to use 10% as numerical starting point (or future goal), seems to perpetuate a wrong mindset – duty rather than privilege.
In Philippians, I was encouraged by how Paul emphasized the giver’s role as partnering with him in spreading the gospel. Unlike Paul, I have not been foreign countries to share the good news, but I still join to advance the gospel by giving and praying for those who do. As their shepherd, Paul wanted people to give generously because he wanted what was spiritually best for them not because the ministry needed more money to operate. I was humbled how these poor believers in Macedonia begged for the opportunity to give generously because they had set their hearts on eternity. They cheerfully parted with worldly wealth (the little they had) to invest in what God treasured.
The following are some reasons for my reluctance to transfer this Old Testament command into life in the New Covenant:
* When we use the word “tithe” this seems very similar to a formula making tithing similar to paying taxes. We check off a box, settling into a into a mindset -give what is required but hold tightly to the rest.
* A tithe sets the bar too low. As people grow closer to Jesus, we will desire to give much more than 10 % because we recognize the extent of Christ’s sacrifice for us and acknowledge everything we have is from God and belongs to God.
* A tithe doesn’t reflect the change in our attitudes as the Holy Spirit fills us enabling us to become cheerful and generous givers, pleading for the privilege of investing in areas God values.
* Paul writes about a readiness to give, not equality of giving (that we contribute equal amounts or percentages). In equality of giving, some people with severely restricted incomes (elderly, widows, single mothers), their “widow’s” mite may not equal 10% of their income.
*Using a tithe as a yard stick, may lead to condemnation or pride.
How can we challenge ourselves to examine what we value most?
What will teach our hearts to treasure what God treasures?
What will motivate us to wholeheartedly participate in the grace of giving recognizing the abundance He has bestowed upon us?
When you examine your expenditures, consider partnering with God in the amount you spend eating out or on gas each week. Then think about giving as much as your monthly car payments, insurance, cable/cell phone bill or your grocery expenses. Is it possible to contemplate radically, sacrificially generous giving by contributing to God’s kingdom the same amount as your biggest line item for your personal kingdom – whether it is your mortgage, retirement, or education? Additionally, for special offerings, search your heart to determine if you can offer the amount you spend yearly on vacations, entertainment, or sports.
To be clear, I am not advocating an austere life of not eating out or taking vacations. I enjoy many comforts and luxuries in life, but each time I read the chapters mentioned, I search my heart to ponder if I am giving sacrificially or out of our excess. When there are competing financial interests, do I make it a habit to get what I want and put God’s interest on the shelf?
Grace giving acknowledges we can’t out give God. He will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. You will be enriched in every way, so you can always be generous. 2 Corinthians 9:10-11
On a very cold, wintry day, my friend and I met to enjoy a delightful lunch at Panera at a table by the fire.
In catching up, she mentioned her concern that her passion for the Lord seemed to have diminished because her earlier days as a Christian were filled the excitement and enthusiasm. Was she losing her first love or becoming luke-warm?
We talked about the kindling that first catches fire and burns quickly with many flames. As the bigger logs catch fire, the flame may be lower, yet this fire emits a radiant heat. The warmth draws people to sit for hours beside it to rest or be renewed.
I told her only God could reveal if she has lost her fervor but from my outside observation, she was still passionate about Jesus. However, I suspected her relationship had shifted from those earlier days.
Like marriage, our love for our Lord may become stronger over the years burning with fervor although without fanfare. We may burn steadily even though not dramatically. If the Spirit of the Lord is strong within us, His fire will draw others to Himself to find His rest and be renewed in His presence.
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep fervent in you love for one another.
After you have suffered for a little
while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ will
Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10
Originally titled, The Gift
Nobody Wants, Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey delve into the topic of
how pain plays a beneficial role in our lives. Likewise, suffering provides
many opportunities that are not evident upon first glance or during the trial
itself. However, here are some enduring results of the refining process which
God uses in our lives:
Suffering provides an opportunity to grow in endurance. With
each ensuing trial, the strength of our faith grows, so we are able to
persevere instead of giving up. Just as our physical muscles grow stronger by
repeated visits to the gym, our faith “muscle” is stretched and enlarged as we
persevere “through the burn.” What we discover in our pain may be training us
for our next season of life or ministry.
Since our own attempts to
solve our problems have not been effective, we cease depending on ourselves and
learn to depend more on God. We have
less tendency to try to figure out the “Whys?” because we have come to realize
God’s ways are unfathomable. When Christ suffered, He fully entrusted Himself
to God and we learn to do the same.
Even when we are going
through the worst, God can bring out His best through the fruit of the Spirit He
is maturing in us. His grace manifest in our most difficult times reaches
others. We are better prepared to
comfort others with the comfort God has given us. Nor do we offer quick and
easy solutions to someone suffering because we know how trite those words
sounded to us.
We begin releasing our grasp
on the temporal and material things as we begin
to perceive and embrace the spiritual and eternal. We are reminded to set
our hearts on Jesus and our lasting spiritual possessions. When all is stripped
away, we hold to the sufficiency of Christ. He is enough!!! Consequently, we anticipate Christ’s return more fervently.
As our love for God matures,
we pursue God for Himself, not merely to receive what He can give us. It is
easy to proclaim our love for God when we feel blessed and victorious. In
trials, we cultivate the art of praise
even if the Lord seems absent because we have learned His character and
promises never fail.
Timothy Keller refers to
suffering as God’s beauty treatments. Similar to how Ester underwent a long
process to make her physically lovely before meeting King Xerxes, the bride of
Christ undergoes, as a result of suffering, a process to bring about spiritual
How can something broken
become more beautiful than the original? It is similar to the Japanese art of
Kintsugi where gold is placed in the cracks highlighting the brokenness instead
of hiding it. We are cracked jars of
clay showcasing the glory of the Christ.
Admittedly, my flesh, which
prefers comfort and control, does not embrace these opportunities. My human
reasoning keeps asking why this is happening and when it will end. But
gradually, I am coming to realize even as my physical body is wasting away, my
inner self is being renewed day by day, trial by trial.
For our light and momentary troubles are
producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. 2
For more on thoughts on trials
and testing, read “Rejoice in Trials?” and “Fact Check: Called to Suffer.”