On Tithes, Offerings and Psalm 50

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On Tithes, Offerings and Psalm 50

James R. Aist

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

I don’t know if you are aware of it, but there is an ongoing debate as to whether or not the Old Testament practice of “tithing” applies to the New Testament church, that is, to you and me. I used to believe that it does, and, in the past, I have referenced Malachi 3:8-10 in support of that viewpoint while soliciting, as a Pastor, “tithes” and offerings during church services.

Later on, I began to question this practice and conducted my own research into the matter, starting with the Old Testament. Here are the most pertinent points from that investigation: 1) the “tithe” in the Old testament was God’s way of providing for the priests, who had no land inheritance from which to make their own living; 2) this “tithe” was one-tenth of the increase from the harvest; and 3) the “tithe” was not optional, but compulsory, both in the amount and the timing. In fact, it was so compulsory that God said that if one did not pay the full amount at the designated intervals, one was robbing God (Malachi 3:8-10)! That is a most serious and solemn indictment, and it was a non-negotiable requirement of the system of tithing before Jesus came on the scene.

Then I moved on to the New Testament, where I came to realize the following: 1) the “tithe” is mentioned in the New Testament (Matthew 23:23), but as a requirement for Jews, not Christians; 2) instead, we are told to give according to our means, whatever amount we purpose in our own hearts, and to do so cheerfully and without compulsion (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:10-12 and 9:7). Moreover, we are instructed, “On the first day of the week let every one of you lay in store, as God has prospered him, so that no collections be made when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Here again, we see instruction to give according to our means, but also to set aside our “increase” so that it will actually be available to give freely when the time comes, without having to be asked for it! That is good stewardship of our finances.

These instructions for “giving” bear little resemblance to the Old Testament system of the “tithe.” In my opinion, if “tithing” was to be a carry-over from the Old Testament, then the New Testament would have made reference to it concerning Christians, especially gentile Christians. But, it does not. When Jesus came, He ushered in a new and a better system of giving, one based not on compulsion, but on willing, “thankful hearts” (cf. Psalm 50:14-15). Where hearts have been changed by Jesus, giving is not a duty, but a blessing (Acts 20:35) and a privilege, and a sign of faith in God’s provision (Philippians 4:19)! In my opinion, it is inappropriate to invoke the Old Testament tithing system to coerce, as it were, giving by Christians. That amounts to giving with, not without, compulsion. That said, giving one-tenth of your increase to the Lord is the only mathematical formula in the Bible as a target amount for giving, and that seems to me to be a reasonable, minimal target for the New Testament church.

While I’m on the topic, there are several other issues I have concerning how “tithes” and offerings may be wrongly solicited. First, it has become an occasional practice, in some Christian circles, to declare that “God doesn’t need your money”, just before asking you to give Him your money! That makes no sense at all to me, zero. Then, Psalm 50:7-13 may be cited to lend biblical support to the idea that God doesn’t need your money. The problem here is that there is not one word in these verses concerning the giving of “tithes and offerings”; it is only about “ritual sacrifices and burnt offerings”, which is a whole different matter. So, does God need your money? The answer to this question is both “No” and “Yes.” For God to exist and function as God, it is true that He does not need our money, as Psalm 50:9-13 clearly implies. But, for the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) to be accomplished, He does need our money, by His own design; enlisting us to get it done requires money, and lots of it. The second issue I have in this context has to do with trying to purchase the blessings of God with an offering. If you are admonished to “not come to the altar ’empty handed’ if you expect to receive a blessing from God”, then you may want to just keep your money and leave. God already wants to prosper us (Psalm 35:27), and He is not in the extortion business! And third, I believe it is a mistake to pronounce a “pass” on giving to those who are barely able to make ends meet just to break even at the end of the month. Why? Because God has promised to reward everyone who gives with more than they have given (Luke 6:38). So, when you excuse the poor from giving – even a small coin that they really can do without – you are getting in the way of a blessing of increase that God wants to provide for them also. After all, they are the very ones who need such an increase the most, are they not?

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)

The Faith of Demons Won’t Help You At All!

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The Faith of Demons Won’t Help You At All!

James R. Aist

“You believe in God. Believe also in Me.” – Jesus (John 14:1b)

There seems to be some lingering confusion among some who claim to be Christians about whom one has to believe in to be a genuine, born-again Christian. For example, some say of their conversion experience, “I found God.” Others may confess their Christian faith by saying “I believe in God.” And surely one must believe in God the Father to be saved. But, does belief in only God the Father really fulfill the requirements for salvation recorded to the Bible?

According to Jesus, one must believe not only in God the Father, but also in Jesus, His only begotten Son (John 3:16, John 6:29 and John 14:1b) to fulfill God’s requirements for salvation. But its not that simple, because even the demons believe in God and that Jesus is His Son (James 2:19; Matthew 8:9), and yet they are condemned to hell. What, then, is missing from the faith of demons?

The answer lies in the fact that there are two kinds of “belief”: there is mere mental ascent to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, and there is mental ascent along with surrender to the lordship of the Son of God. The faith of Demons is the former kind, because Satan is their lord, whereas saving faith – the faith of true believers – is the latter kind, because Jesus is their Lord. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21), and “You believe in God. Believe also in Me” (John 14:1b). As James pointed out, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17); dead faith is the faith of demons and will not solve your sin problem.

So, if you have not yet surrendered yourself to the lordship of Jesus Christ, then you have the faith of demons, and you need to take care of that right away. Jesus is not your Savior if He is not your Lord!

(To read more of my articles on Bible topics, click HERE.)

Be the One!

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Be the One!

James R. Aist

“The King will answer, ‘Truly I say to you, as you have done it for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you have done it for Me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

Recently, I began to reflect on some of the instances when someone took the initiative to step up and be the one who blessed me by filling a need in my life that I couldn’t fill on my own. As a result, I felt a flush of gratitude and appreciation for these thoughtful and generous people and for what they did for me. I am writing this article to encourage you to be on the lookout for opportunities to “be the one” yourself. As you read on, keep in mind that my family had to move every 2-3 years, because Daddy was a Methodist minister. So, hold on, we’re going to move around a bit!

Let me begin by sharing with you three of the blessings that came quickly to my mind that day. The first of these happened when I was about 12 years old, we were living in Evening Shade, Arkansas, and Daddy didn’t have much time to spend with me at that time. Mr. Thomas was the Principal of the local school and a very avid and accomplished fisherman. He was firm with the students, but he also had a sweet, calming spirit about him. We knew that he had our best interests in mind. I greatly admired and respected Mr. Thomas. Well, one Friday afternoon, he approached me at school and asked if I would like to go fishing with him the next day! At first, I was taken aback that he would think of me, a 12 year old boy, as a fishing buddy. But I quickly agreed to go, and we had a great time together. He treated me as if I were his equal, at least for that one afternoon, and I learned some things about fishing from a real master.

The second blessing came to me about three years later. I had just been selected to be on the varsity basketball team at Batesville High School and was about to experience my first away game. I had some warm clothing to help keep me warm on the long, cold school bus rides from away games, but I hadn’t thought much about anything more substantial for the coldest nights. My family couldn’t afford anything warmer for me anyway. Then one day as I was passing by the old General Store in Bethesda on my way home from basketball practice, the store owner, Mr. Porter, caught my attention and asked me to come inside, because he had a surprise for me. So, I went inside, and he handed me a large, flat, cardboard box. When I opened the box, inside was a brand new, hooded, parka, perfect for long, cold bus rides late at night! He said to me, “I didn’t want you to get cold coming back from your away games, so I got you this.” Well, I was quick to thank him for the gift, and I was amazed that he would even think to do that for me, when I hadn’t even given it a thought myself until then.

The third blessing I will share with you came a couple of years later when I had made the basketball team at Springdale High School. We lived 6 miles away, in Elm Springs, I didn’t have a car, and my parents were unable to provide me a ride home after away games. So, it seemed to me that I would have to give up on playing basketball for my last two years of high school, which would be a major letdown, to say the least. So, I told  coach Sanders that I couldn’t play after all, and why, but he was not discouraged. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I will give you a ride home after the away games.” “But that’s six miles each way, it will be very late at night, and you have a family to go home to after the games!”, I countered. “Thats OK,” he said, “I want to do it.” Once again, I was amazed that he would make that kind of sacrifice for me. It hadn’t crossed my mind to ask him for a ride, and I wasn’t even his star player.

As you can see, the common element in all three of these stories is that someone saw a need in my life and just took care of it themselves. That is what “grace” looks like. Grace cannot be either earned or deserved; it can only be offered and received. And so it is with salvation: we are saved, not by works, but by the grace of God through the gift of faith in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. So, as we continue our journey through life, let’s extend grace to those around us as the opportunities arise and as we are able. Let’s us “Be the One!” In doing so, we will not only be helping someone in need (that’s a good thing), but we will also be glorifying God by modeling His grace to others.

(To read more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE)

 

Why Does God Allow Satan to Tempt Us?

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Why Does God Allow Satan to Tempt Us?

James R. Aist

“Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1)

The Bible alludes to “temptations” using various terms, such as tests, adversities, trials, persecutions and tribulations. This is because temptation is portrayed primarily as a testing of our faith in, and loyalty to, God. There’s no doubt about it: every man from Adam to Jesus to us has been or will be “put to the test” (cf., Psalm 11:5; John 16:33; 1 Peter 4:12; Hebrews 4:15; Revelation 3:10). To further establish the truth of this point, let’s expand, somewhat, this trail of temptation in the Bible, so that we may more fully grasp its inevitability. God allowed Satan to tempt Eve (and through her, Adam) in the Garden of Eden using a slanderous lie; God allowed Satan to tempt Job by destroying all of his earthly possessions, except his life and his wife; Abraham was tested by God when He instructed him to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering; David was tested by the fearful sight of a giant, Goliath, who was mocking the God of Israel to his face; Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil; Peter was tempted to deny that he was a follower of Jesus; we are tempted by Satan (1 Peter 5:8) to sin and to abandon our faith in Jesus; and, at the end of the millennial reign of Jesus, Satan will tempt the inhabitants of the earth to join him in mounting one last army to defeat Jesus and His followers. So, the question arises, “Why does God allow Satan to tempt us?” To put the question another way, “Why hasn’t God forbidden Satan to tempt us during this Age of Grace?” Isn’t it enough that we have declared, sincerely, our allegiance to Him?

The short answer to this question is, “No, mere words, by themselves, are not enough.” But why Does God require more than our solemn word on it? I believe that the Bible gives two, interconnected and fundamental answers to this question. First, let’s take a close look at Genesis 3, where we can find one answer. Satan was allowed to test the fidelity of Adam and Eve toward God, and the first man and woman, representing to God all of mankind, failed the test. What followed, necessarily, was a cosmic consequence of “biblical proportions”: Adam and Eve had to be banished from God’s presence in the Garden of Eden to an outside world ruled by God’s arch enemy, Satan. Adam and Eve got it wrong, and the whole of creation has been paying the price for their transgression ever since. What if God, in giving mankind a second chance, requires us all to get it right this time by willfully obeying God, not Satan, when Satan tests our loyalty to Him. Our loyalty to God must be demonstrated by our willful obedience to God when we are tested. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 14:15).” That is the proof that God requires, beyond mere words to that effect; words are cheap, but actions can have eternal consequences. So, in my view, that is one reason why God is allowing Satan to remain active on the earth during this Age of Grace. My perception is that God is using Satan to test and prove our faith, in order to demonstrate that what we have is not mere mental ascent to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:21), but saving faith that endures to the end (Matthew 10:22; 1 Corinthians 10:13). The other answer to this question can be gleaned from a study of Job 1-2. Satan challenged Job’s faith in God and received God’s permission to try to persecute Job into cursing Him. This challenge, in effect, turned into a contest between God and Satan to determine if God’s power to keep Job faithful to Him was greater than Satan’s power to get Job to deny Him. Now, the Bible says that it is by the power of God that believers are kept faithful to the end (1 Peter 1:3-5). By allowing Satan to test the faith of Job, God demonstrated that His power to keep Job faithful was greater than Satan’s power to destroy Job’s faith. The Apostle Paul said it like this, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities nor powers, neither things present nor things to come, neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).” So now we can surmise that God has a dual purpose in allowing Satan to tempt us: To demonstrate that a) saving faith is the kind of faith that withstands even the assaults of Satan, and b) God is more powerful than Satan in the battle for the souls of mankind. To me, these are reassuring insights concerning my own eternal destiny.

But that’s not all. In the Bible we find that the testing of our faith has other important purposes. It strengthens us against future temptations (2 Corinthians 12:10); it prepares us for future ministry in His kingdom (Hebrews 2:18; 2 Corinthians 1:4); it helps to perfect us in God’s eyes (Romans 5:2-4); and it reveals to us what is in our hearts and minds, so that we will know that He judges rightly when the time comes (Jeremiah 17:10).

And, there’s still more. When this Age of Grace is over, Satan will no longer be allowed to tempt us; he will have fulfilled God’s purposes in allowing him to tempt us during the Age of Grace, and he will be banished to the Lake of Fire for eternity, far away from us. As a result, those of us who are born again in this life will be able to enjoy the next life with Christ (Matthew 10:2) in a new and amazing world free of temptations. What a glorious day that will be!

(To read more biblically oriented articles on this website, click HERE)