“Love Gives” – Deuteronomy 14:22-29; 15:19-23

October 1st, 2017

Dt. 14:22-29; 15:19-23

“Love Gives”

Aux Text: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Call to Worship selected verses from: Psalm 37

 

Service OrientationGod blesses so we can be a blessing.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. —Acts 20:35

 

Background Information:

  • On first sight, 14:22-29 continues the series of instructions begun in chapter 12, inviting Israelites to celebrate their vertical covenant relationship with Yahweh. Indeed, not until verse 27 do we learn that the primary concern is actually elsewhere:  the well-being of those who are economically vulnerable.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 356)
  • Apart from the special offerings that are given at special events and for special reasons like thanksgiving and forgiveness, Deuteronomy speaks of four kinds of regular offerings: the annual tithe, the tithe that is given once every three years, and the offering of firstborn livestock and of firstfruits.  The two passages we are looking at here describe all but the firstfruits offering, which will be examined in our discussion on 26:1-11.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 397)
  • There is a very distinct shift between what the Hebrews can eat and what they cannot. The Lord is very clear about His prohibitions, making sure to protect His people from sin.  However, I was struck by the fact that He closes the chapter with all the active ways they actually can serve Him through eating.  This structure (which gives kind of a “tell me the bad news first” organization to the chapter) makes it clear that He wants His people to know He’s a God of abundance and love, rather than one solely of negative commands.”  —Hannah Socolofsky
  • (v. 14:22) Most everyone agrees that tithing predates Deuteronomy and was likely an ancient Israelite practice (J. M. P. Smith 1914, 119). Abraham gave a full tithe of war booty to Melchizedek, priest-king of Salem (=Jerusalem), after achieving success in battle (Gn 14:20).  Jacob promised a tithe of everything after his dream at Bethel if Yahweh would return him safely to his father’s house after a sojourn in Paddan-aram (Gn 28:20-22).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 482)
  • (v. 14:25) According to Lv 27:31, when tithes were converted into money the worshiper had to give one-fifth more. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 484-5)
  • (v. 14:25) Dispersed throughout Palestine, it would be inconvenient or even impossible to carry the tithe or animal for offering, so Moses allowed Israel to exchange their tithes and offerings for silver, which could then be converted again upon arrival at the central sanctuary. This practical procedure, unfortunately, led to the abuse at Jesus’ time when there was a brisk business in the sale of animals in the temple courts.  Jesus wasn’t critical of this Mosaic law, but he saw how vendors often took advantage of pilgrim worshipers.  The greater significance of the feast was often lost in the bustle of buying and selling.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 133)
  • (v. 14:26) Some in the temperance movement have maintained that the biblical wine was unfermented and never intoxicating. The Hebrew word shēkhār (strong drink), however, definitely contradicts this opinion.  Both it and the verb from which it is derived refer to an intoxicating drink.  The Bible contains adequate material for the teaching of temperance without the necessity of wantonly misinterpreting it.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 425-6)
  • (v. 14:28) In vv. 28-29 Moses calls for a third-year tithe, an institution found nowhere else in the OT. Rather than bringing their tithes to the central sanctuary, in the third and sixth years the farmers must deposit their tithes in their towns.  It is unclear whether everyone must do this in the same third and sixth years of the seven-year cycle, or whether they are to be staggered, which would ensure a continuous supply of food for the Levites.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 359)
  • (v. 15:21) First-born males of domestic animals are to be deemed holy and the property of Yahweh. They are to be taken to the central sanctuary and eaten in a sacred feast (presumably either at Passover or Pentecost).  The general rule covering all sacrificial animals, viz., that they must be without blemish (17:1), is applied to this provision.  Animals which are not perfect may be eaten at home as ordinary food (cf. 12:15, 22), provided that the blood is poured out upon the ground (cf. 12:16, 23).  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 431)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What does God through Moses want us to see in these passages?

 

Answer:  God blesses us and empowers us so we can be a blessing to others.   We are to be like the One whose image and likeness we bear, who uses His resources and power for others.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Generous

 

A clergyman wrote a wealthy and influential businessman, requesting a subscription to a worthy charity.  He promptly received a curt refusal that ended by saying, “as far as I can see, this Christian business is just one continuous give, give, give.”  After a brief interval the clergyman answered, “I wish to thank you for the best definition of the Christian life that I have yet heard.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 397)

 

James Lewis Kraft was the founder of the food products company that bears his name.  He used to say, “I don’t believe in tithing. . . but it’s a good place to start.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 401)

 

Sadly, many Christians today do not take tithing seriously.  George Barna’s research group has found that the more money a person makes, the less likely he or she is to tithe.  Studies done by the Gallup organization, presumably in North America, show that those who attend weekly church services give 3.45 percent of their income annually, whereas those who do not go to church give between 1.1 and 1.4 percent.  Other studies show that giving is declining among Christians.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 401)

 

Ron Blue defines stewardship as “the use of God-given resources for the accomplishment of God-given goals.”  (Ron Blue, Master Your Money, p. 23)

 

What do you need to learn from this passage?:

I-  Everything is God’s.  (Ex 9:29; Dt 11:10-15; 1 Chr 29:11-14; Ps 24:1; Acts 17:25; 1 Cor 10:26; Phil 4:19)

 

As in 14:22-29, so here the religious principle is that what we have comes from God.  To tithe and to offer to the Lord the firstling in a sacred feast is to acknowledge that since God is author of all goods he must be revered.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 431)

 

Fearing God in the OT is the basic response to God and is almost equivalent to what the NT calls belief.  The discipline of tithing confirms and establishes one’s commitment to God.  We can begin to neglect God’s lordship over our lives as we get engrossed in the things of this world.  But being in the habit of giving a tithe of everything we earn reminds us and affirms that God is most important to us.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 398-9)

 

The task of a steward is simply to properly manage something for the owner until the owner comes to take it back.  (Gordon MacDonald; Ordering Your Private World, 53)

 

The basic principle involved is the recognition that all life belongs to God (as v. 23 also testifies, with a different symbolism); the farmer was to acknowledge that for all his own hard work, it is God who gives the harvest.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 96)

 

In specifying “in the presence of the LORD your God,” (14:23) he identifies Yahweh as the divine host.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 357)

 

William Ford Nichols used to say to his confirmation candidates, “We need to give, more than the Lord needs our gifts.”  The Chronicler puts the matter succinctly.  “All things come of thee, O LORD, and of thine own have we given thee” (1 Chr 29:14, Book of Common Prayer).  Jesus went a step further:  We are stewards of all we possess, and all must be accounted for before the Lord.  This frees giving from mechanical rules and the burden falls where it rightly belongs, on the enlightened Christian conscience.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 426)

 

The fertility of the herds and flocks was not to be taken for granted.  The ability of a ewe or cow to conceive and give birth was a gift and a mark of divine blessing.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 381)

 

The questions for Christian stewards, for saved trustees, is never the question that first comes to our mind.  Our question is not, “All right, how much do I have to give away?”  That question still assumes we own our wealth.  Our question is far more troubling:  in the face of God and the world’s poor, how much do I dare keep for myself? (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.; Assurances of the Heart, 237)

 

Stewardship is more than the management of things.  It is the refusal to let things manage us.  – James Wallace

 

Since God was considered the owner of the land, it was believed proper that he should be given a share of its produce.  Consequently the harvest festival, or feast of Weeks (Pentecost), was a time when offerings were presented at the central sanctuary to the divine Lord (16:9-12).  This was the occasion of the second of the three annual pilgrimages which every Israelite was required to make to the central sanctuary (16:16; Ex 23:17; 34:22-23).  The offerings consisted of the first fruits from the soil and the firstlings of animals (15:19-20).  Since first fruits and tithes are so frequently associated, it is probable that the tithe fixed the precise amount of the yearly crop which was to be presented, whereas the first fruits were simply a token gift (a basketful in 26:2).  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 424)

 

For the past forty years Eunice Pike has worked with the Mazatec Indians in south-western Mexico.  During this time she has discovered some interesting things about these beautiful people.  For instance, the people seldom wish someone well.  Not only that, they are hesitant to teach one another or to share the gospel with each other.  If asked, “Who taught you to bake bread?” the village baker answers, “I just know,” meaning he has acquired the knowledge without anyone’s help.  Eunice says this odd behavior stems from the Indian’s concept of “limited good.”  They believe there is only so much good, so much knowledge, so much love to go around.  To teach another means you might drain yourself of knowledge.  To love a second child means you have to love the first child less.  To wish someone well—”Have a good day”—means you have just given away some of your own happiness, which cannot be reacquired.  (Bernie May, Learning to Trust)

 

II-  Believers love to cheerfully give back to God what is already His.  (Dt 14:23-26; 15:19-23; see also: Lv 27:30-33; Mt 6:20-21; 1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 8-9)

 

To Moses the tithal meal was obviously not intended as a burdensome legal of ceremonial requirement.  It was to be welcomed as an occasion for eating and celebrating in the presence of Yahweh their God.  For this reason, he makes it easy for all citizens to participate and redundantly invites not only the leads of families but entire households to eat anything that their hearts desire at the festival.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 358)

 

I have tried to keep things in my hands and lost them all, but what I have given into God’s hands I still possess. — Martin Luther.

 

Here is a personal conviction I’ve come to after nearly two decades of tithing: God can do more with 90% than I can do with 100%.  If I don’t tithe, I’m taking God out of the equation of my finances.  If I do tithe, I’m adding God into the equation of my finances.  And He is the God who is able to feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish.  And have more leftover than He started with.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 38)

 

The sacrificing of firstborn animals reminded the Israelites of their redemption from Egypt when all the firstborn Egyptian sons died.  It provided another occasion for the Israelites to teach their children about God’s redemption of their nation.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 199)

 

The command to sacrifice male firstborns from one’s flocks and herds is found in the Covenant Code (Ex 22:28b-29[29b-30]) and is even projected back into the Primeval History, where Abel is said to have offered firstborns of his flock to Yahweh (Gn 4:4).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 498)

 

Our Lord still wants us, however, to give a planned, proportionate gift to him.  Paul told the Corinthians:  “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income” (1 Cor 16:2).  He wants us to give willingly and generously.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 134)

 

Lv 27:30-33 and Nm 18:21-29 present a tithe that is for the support of the sanctuary and its personnel–priests and Levites, whereas Deuteronomy describes the tithe as a family meal at the sanctuary (vv. 23-26) and (in the third year) the basis of a food storage scheme for welfare distribution to the needy (vv. 28f.), with apparently only secondary concern for the Levites (v. 27).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 186)

 

The tithe could have been a mechanical and joyless thing, treated much as the average citizen today views the payment of income tax.  Deuteronomy took this ancient and universal law and instead made it a thing of joy as well as generosity.  The Israelite paying this tax did not do so at a remote distance; he and his family gave a feast in Jerusalem, in which of course they fully shared (v. 26).  (Self-evidently, they did not spend the whole tithe feeding themselves!)  As St. Paul says, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).  The Christian Church makes the same sort of appeal to individual Christians and their families; the upkeep of the Churches and the social needs of the world require our voluntary self-denial.  The NT exhortation to give hospitality (eg Heb 13:2) may also derive ultimately from these verses in Deuteronomy.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 92)

 

III-  Believers love to cheerfully give to others what God gave them.  (Dt 14:27; see also: Lv 22:21; Nm 18:21-32; Dt 23:25; 24:19; Prv 14:31; 19:17; Mt 25:31-46; Acts 2:42-45; 9:36; 10:2-4, 31; 2 Cor 8-9; 1 Tm 6:18-19; Jam 1:27; 1 Jn 3:17)

 

The disposition of the church toward the marginalized continues to be a primary barometer of authentic spirituality.  Christians should not wait for the state to take care of the poor in their communities.  On the contrary, through charity and compassion the church functions as the “wings” of Yahweh (Ruth 2:12) and the hands and feet of Christ (cf. Mt 25:34-46).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 361)

 

Mercy to the full range of human needs is such an essential mark of being a Christian that it can be used as a test of true faith.  Mercy is not optional or an addition to being a Christian.  Rather, a life poured out in deeds of mercy is the inevitable sign of true faith.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 35)

 

In Prv 14:31 and 19:17 we are told that to ignore the needs of a poor man is to sin against the Lord.  So the poor and needy are a test.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 39)

 

Now we are in a position to see why Jesus (and Isaiah, James, John, and Paul) can use the ministry of mercy as a way to judge between true and false Christianity.  A merely religious person, who believes God will favor him because of his morality and respectability, will ordinarily have contempt for the outcast.  “I worked hard to get where I am, and so can anyone else!”  That is the language of the moralist’s heart.  “I am only where I am by the sheer and unmerited mercy of God.  I am completely equal with all other people.”  That is the language of the Christian’s heart.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 61)

 

Christians today often debate whether they are obligated to tithe.  The question itself is curious and somewhat hypocritical, because these same people spend little time discussing whether or not other aspects of the OT law continue in force.  It seems that when we ask, “Do Christians need to tithe?” we have asked the wrong question.  At issue is not the institution but the heart and mind of God, which are to be reflected in the hearts and minds of his people.  This passage is not concerned so much about the tithe as about providing another occasion to celebrate in the presence of God and to encourage generosity among God’s people.  Consequently we should rephrase the question this way:  How might Christians demonstrate the compassion for the economically marginalized that the institution of the tithe tries to foster?  This gets us off the externals and focuses on the primary issue:  soft hearts and open hands.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 361-2)

 

The work of the Missionaries of Charity is very hard from a human standpoint.  One day some people told Mother Teresa that they would not do what she and her Sisters do even for a million dollars.  Mother Teresa answered, “I would not do it for a million dollars either.  Or for any amount.  But I do it gladly for the love of Christ, to whom we direct our help under his disguise of the poor.”  (Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado, Always the Poor Mother Teresa: Her Life and Message, 60)

 

The Sisters make efforts to offer love, but not pity.  Pity is somewhat arrogant because it comes in a way, from looking down at others.

The attitude of the Missionaries of Charity comes from a deeper feeling.  They consider the poorest of the poor as persons who are somehow more deserving than others.  They are truly Christ under the guise of pain and poverty.

This is why the Sisters put their whole heart into everything they do.  Even though they do not mean to, they often evoke the deepest feelings of gratitude and admiration from those they serve–feelings which had been buried by a lifetime of neglect and scorn from others.  (Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado, Always the Poor Mother Teresa: Her Life and Message, 61)

 

The laws of purity that applied to sacrificial offerings do not apply to tithes.  Animals presented to Yahweh are to be selected randomly, which meant that whether the lot falls on a desirable or defective specimen, it must not be substituted.  In Nm 18:21-32 Yahweh declared that the tithe be given to the Levites as their remuneration for the spiritual service they render to the nation and as compensation for not receiving any grants of land.  Levites in turn must offer a tithe of the tithe they receive from the people, giving the best part of what they had received to the high priest.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 360)

 

In reading the OT prophets, one surmises that the people’s participation in religious festivals was often little more than external performance (cf. Isa 1:10-17; Hos 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Mic 6:6-8), devoid of the joy in the privilege of feasting in the presence of Yahweh envisioned here.  Furthermore, landed citizens’ participation in these festivals seems to have been disconnected from life in general and compassion for the poor in particular.  In a similar vein, in the NT Jesus accuses the Jewish leaders of being scrupulous in adhering to the tithing ordinance while disregarding the weightier matters of Torah:  justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

This will happen when access to divine favor is considered a right, especially by those who conform externally to the ceremonial requirements of the law but forget that worship in the presence of the Lord is a supreme privilege to be greeted with awe and a sense of unworthiness.  As Moses had pleaded in 10:12-22, those who worship God rightly are grateful for God’s blessing and commit themselves to an ethic of imatio dei (“imitation of God”), particularly in showing compassion to the poor.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 360)

 

The special provision in vv. 28-29 is remarkable–one of the best expressions of Deuteronomy’s aim to create a society in which no one would be permanently disadvantaged, or consigned to a second-class status.  Deuteronomy is otherwise realistic about the likely persistence of poverty (15:11), as even Jesus was (Mk 14:7).  Yet the ideal is a constant project for Christian people.  And it is not just “charity,” but the conferring of worth, dignity and belonging.  Israel as paradigm for just societies is nowhere more powerful than here.  The inclusion of the “resident alien” is surprising, in the context of a rationale that derives from Israel’s holiness.  His two appearances in the chapter make an interesting contrast; he is excluded from the dietary requirements, yet included in the provision for those without property.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 254)

 

As a priority, we should give to needy Christians both intensively and extensively, until their need is gone.  But we must also give generously to nonbelievers as part of our witness to the world.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 80)

 

But as we look at these three social institutions–family, church, and state–we see that the closer the covenantal connection, the greater the responsibility for mercy.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 82)

 

Probably the administration of this “social fund” fell among the other responsibilities of community elders.  In other words, care for the poor was structured into the regular economic life of the nation.  It was not left to private charity.  Rather, it was a public duty that the weakest and poorest should also be enabled to eat and be satisfied from the blessing of Yahweh on the whole nation.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 184)

 

Moses reinforces the humanitarian concern within the lengthy latter unit with another reminder to heads of households to include the needy in their worship (16:11).  In so doing he reminds his hearers of the relationship between life as worship and formal cultic service.  True worship is not limited to the latter; in fact, if the former is lacking, the latter is of no positive consequence for the worshiper.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 355-6)

 

Since the blessings of Yahweh come most directly to those who own agricultural land, they could easily treat worship events self-indulgently, shutting out those who had no access to land as a means of livelihood.  The Torah does not envision a welfare system administered by a political bureaucracy and based on a centralized system of taxation.  The well-being of the potentially marginalized depends on the charity of all citizens.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 358)

 

Now, when we recall that Israel’s visibility to the nations was intended to demonstrate the righteousness of their laws and the nearness of their God (4:6-8), we can round out our understanding of that role from Dt 15.  This is what such righteousness means; this is the character and requirement of that God.  A society such as described in this chapter would undoubtedly be radically distinctive from “the way of the world,” and would arouse interest and questions.  We should not detract from its ethical power and challenge by denigrating the limited extent to which historical Israel ever managed to live by such ideals.  Israel’s failure no more invalidates Deuteronomy’s ethics than the moral failure of the Corinthians invalidates Paul’s ethics.  The people of God are called to be distinctive, not just in their radical, uncompromising monotheism but also in equally radical commitment to social and economic priorities that reflect God’s value and reverse the world’s.  There can be no doubt that the early church found in Dt 15 a charter for their attempt to eliminate poverty in their midst, and Luke links the growth of the church as firmly to that social and economic effort as to the evangelistic preaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35).  There is missionary power in joyful generosity.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 194-5)

 

First, social justice in Deuteronomy was no mere abstract ideal, but a matter of detailed practical legislation on behalf of the dependent.  Secondly, the justness and health of any society is measurable in terms of the quality of its care for the weakest and most vulnerable members of it.  Thirdly, the laws aim their rhetorical weaponry at those who have the power to effect change.  Fourthly, God is portrayed as the advocate of the powerless, a role that the church can and should take on in God’s name.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 195)

 

Israelites every three years were to set aside a special tithe in each town to provide for the Levites and their financial needs.  Neither they, nor the resident aliens, the fatherless and the widows were to be omitted from the worship celebrations.  By paying attention to this provision of the covenant, the people of God would be investing in their own future:  so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 183)

 

IV-  Believers learn to fear the Lord through giving by realizing it is all God’s to begin with and that God blesses the blesser(Dt 14:23, 29; see also: Ex 13:12-15; Dt 4:10; 7:13; 11:14; 12:1-20; 15:10; 17:19; Ps 37:26; 112:5; Prv 11:25; 21:13; 22:9; 28:27; Mal 3:7-12; 2 Cor 8:11-15; 9:6-15; 1 Tm 6:17-19) 

 

With the last clause of verse 29 he suggests that demonstrated compassion to the poor is precondition for continued blessing.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 359)

 

The consistent teaching of the Bible is that God is no one’s debtor.  When we give to his causes, he blesses us with more than what we give him.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 402)

 

This does not mean that we give for selfish reasons, or that we can motivate others to give purely so they can get more by giving.  What it does mean is that Biblical giving actually serves our best interests.  God knows how to look after us if we obey him.  If we disobey by holding back on our giving, we miss that blessing.  The promise of blessing for giving reminds us that Biblical giving is a wise thing to do.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 403)

 

Giving a tithe to the needy will not lead to economic hardship; rather, it will bring greater prosperity because Yahweh’s blessing will rest upon the worshipper.  Deuteronomy stresses the point that Yahweh’s future blessing will come from charitable acts in the present (15:10; 23:21[20]; 24:19).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 486)

 

God judges what we give by what we keep.  —G. Mueller

 

Give according to your income, lest God make your income according to your giving. — Peter Marshall.

 

To offer blemished gifts is to despise God.  The Malachi text goes on to give an analogy from everyday life:  “Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts” (1:8b).  To put it in today’s language, “What sort of idiot would give a gift of rancid cake to the CEO of his company?  How minute in significance is a CEO in comparison to the Lord of the universe!”  Yet that is what we often do.  Our offerings are not offerings; they are crumbs from our plates.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 405)

 

Some people give only what they can’t use, such as clothes that the user has outgrown or that have gone out of fashion.  Such gifts are not wrong per se, but they should not be regarded as offerings.  They are convenient ways of getting rid of our waste.  Sometimes people give damaged and low-quality things that cannot be used by them.  Some people have even sent used tea bags in missionary care packages.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 405)

 

The command to be very careful to give the best to God reminds us that we must give only our best to God.  It places before us the supremacy of God and the total devotion that should characterize our relationship with him.  By getting used to giving God only the best, we develop an attitude to life that says God is most important.  By giving something other than the best we insult God and entrench ourselves in our rebellion against him.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 406)

 

The difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is a trust in God for material provision.  “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously…And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  As it is written:  “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”  (2 Cor 9:6, 8-9).  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 71-2)

 

The currency of this world will be worthless at our death or at Christ’s return, both of which are imminent.  For us to accumulate vast earthly treasures in the face of the inevitable future is the equivalent to stockpiling Confederate money.

The only currency of value in heaven is our present service and generous giving to God’s kingdom.  Jim Elliot, the martyred missionary, said it this way, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”  (Howard Dayton, Your Money Counts, 76)

 

Nature is not only in decay, but it is no longer “under us” as before the Fall.  The point of the curse is that the “dust,” the earth, will only very reluctantly yield to us some of its riches.  Only with the greatest effort does man learn to get along with the physical world.  And even though we may eke out an existence, the earth itself will eventually win, for to it we will return.  We will fight the dirt all our lives, and in the end we will be six feet under it.  The great preacher George Whitefield, in order to make this point, would ask his audience, “Dost thou know why the wild animals fear and growl and shriek at thee?  Because they know thou hast a quarrel with their Master!”  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 51)

 

The people must tithe.  The religious purposes of the tithe are designated.  Part of the offering shall go to the Levites and part, in the three-year cycle, to the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow; yet the chief purpose of the tithe is to teach the people to reverence the Lord with the fruits of the field.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 424-5)

 

Moses declares the purpose of the banquet:  that the Israelites may learn to revere Yahweh their God “always.”  It is not the eating that teaches people to fear Yahweh, but eating in the presence of Yahweh.  Thus the presentation of the tithe provided a means by which the settled people could participate annually in the kind of event that the elders of Israel had experienced on Horeb (4:10; Ex 24:9-11).  Reverent awe and gratitude were to characterize the people of Yahweh.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 357)

 

Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) was a Baptist theologian who had a big influence on the Baptist Missionary Society and on William Carey.  One day he asked a friend for a gift for missions.  The friend said, “Well, Andrew, I’ll give you five pounds, seeing it is you.”  Fuller replied, “No, I can’t take anything for this cause, seeing that it is for me that you are doing it.”  Feeling rebuked, the man hesitated for a moment and said, “Andrew, you are right, here are ten pounds seeing that it is for the Lord Jesus Christ!”  Without doubt, regular giving is a serious aspect of the life of obedience.  Holy people give wholeheartedly as if they are giving to God.  Let’s get serious about giving!  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 406)

 

Captain Levy, a believer from Philadelphia, was once asked how he could give so much to the Lord’s work and still possess great wealth.  The Captain replied, “Oh, as I shovel it out, He shovels it in, and the Lord has a bigger shovel.” (Today in the Word, July, 1990, 28)

 

Worship Point:  Worship the God Who owns the Universe; Who models for us generous, gracious, charitable giving.  (Mal 1:6-14; Mt 26:11-13; Jn 3:16; Rom 12:1-2; 1 Tm 6:17-19)

 

Because worship demands our best, Christians in all ages have poured out of their treasure and art and have built the great cathedrals and noble churches of Christendom.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 432)

 

We often view the Lord’s blessing as a right rather than a privilege.  But God’s people cannot afford to lose sight of the grace of covenant relationship with him, concretized in his blessing on our work and his invitation to worship in his presence.  Success in every venture, whether agricultural, industrial academic, or domestic, depends on God’s favor (Ps 90:16-17).  And every meal is still a sacrifice, but it is also a gracious provision of God.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 382)

 

Worship with the body is Paul’s first and foremost injunction.  In view of the many abuses of the body in the surrounding culture, one can well appreciate his emphasis.  In our own day we are rapidly slouching toward pure hedonism, the degeneration of the self into permissive decadence.  Holiness for the apostle is not withdrawal, but it is sacrifice.  We are told here to give up what we want for our gratification, to say no to our appetites, and present ourselves to God.  Our entire lives should be an offering to the Lord.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 344)

 

(Isa 1:13-15, 17)  God is saying through Isaiah:  Orthodoxy without social concern is not orthodoxy!”  So, too, social concern without the ministry of word would be a vain offering.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 114)

 

Gospel Application:  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   (Jesus in John 3:16)

 

Every time we gather to partake of the bread and the wine of communion, Jesus, who is Yahweh incarnate, serves us at his table.  However, he does not merely take the offerings we bring and then invite us to eat of it; the firstborn Son of God offers himself, saying, “Take and eat, this is my body, given for you” (Mt 26:26-27; Mk 14:22-23; with Lk 22:19-20; 1 Cor 11:24-25).  God’s people should never treat eating at the Lord’s table as a wearisome ritual, a waste of time and resources.  On the contrary, this is a precious ritual, for the invitation to eat at this meal sets us apart from all others and provides us with a constant reminder of his immeasurable grace.  In the words of the angel of Rv 19:9, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 382)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Catch the vision of heaven on earth:  God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven.  Be generous.  Be loving.  Be like Jesus and be a cheerful giver.  You are blessed to be a blessing(Mt 10:8; 2 Cor 8-9)

 

Wealth is to be accumulated strictly for doing works of mercy and spreading the kingdom.  Wealth is not to be stored up “for yourselves (Mt 6:19-21).  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 72)

 

If we offer love, this must be with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  If we yield obedience, this shall be no formal compliance with the letter but the giving of the heart to the spirit of the law.  If we offer money, no shabby charity will do, for “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7) whose gift is not measured by the minimum that may be necessary.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 432)

 

Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure is, there is your heart; where your heart is, there is your happiness.  —Augustine.

 

Christians must give sacrificially, until their lifestyle is lowered.  However, giving must be in accord with calling and ministry opportunities.  Also, every believer must be a steward of possessions so as not to become a burden and liability to his or her family.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 67)

 

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give.  I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.  —C.S. Lewis.

 

If your giving to the needy does not burden you or cut into your lifestyle in any way, you must give more!  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 75)

 

God’s mercy comes to us without conditions, but does not proceed without our cooperation.  So too our aid must begin freely, regardless of the recipient’s merits.  But our mercy must increasingly demand change or it is not really love.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 93)

 

And though we must be extremely patient, eventually, aid must be withdrawn if it is abused.

We see then that mercy ministry operates on the same basis as evangelism.  Initially, we offer the gospel to anyone and everyone, as we have opportunity and resources to reach them.  “Whosoever will”!  We do not wait for them to come to us.  But, if eventually a person or a group evidences a rebellious and disrespectful attitude toward the gospel, we withdraw.  Continued pressure only hardens them and dishonors the message.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 97)

 

If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving.  —Mother Teresa.

 

Neither the “liberal” approach (no conditions on aid to the needy) nor the “conservative” approach (only help the deserving poor) understand grace.  Instead, our mercy ministry must help people freely, yet aim to bring their whole lives under the healing lordship of Christ.  Mercy is kingdom endeavor.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 227)

 

When the person in need is acting irresponsibly, and your continued aid would only shield him from the consequences of his own behavior, then it is no longer loving or merciful to continue support.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 228)

 

The only true and enduring motivation for the ministry of mercy is an experience and a grasp of the grace of God in the gospel.  If we know we are sinners saved by grace alone, we will be both open and generous to the outcasts and the unlovely.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 58)

 

So What?:  The world will always be a jungle as long as it is every man for himself.  The world will be heaven on earth when we learn that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

 

The trouble is that too many people are spending money they haven’t yet earned for things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. —Unknown.

 

JESUS:

GAVE IT ALL

 

 

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