Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [NRSV]
Jesus talks about money on several occasions:
- The lost coin,
- giving Cesar what is Cesar’s,
- highliting the gift of the widows copper coins,
- selling all your possessions of the rich young ruler,
- serving one master,
- being content with your pay,
- love of money being the root of all evil,
- turning over the exchange tables at the temple for extorting grace,
- give to the needy,
- calculating tower building before the project begins,
- hidden treasure is with selling everything, the pearl of great price.
- In fact, Jesus talks about money a great deal.
Let’s look at tithing: We have a long tradition of response-giving of 10%.
- The earliest example of giving one tenth is done by Abram (Abraham) giving 10% of the spoils of war to God and returning 90% to the loosing king. Abram says, I don’t want you to call me rich at your expense. (So much for Robert Tilton and Guuy Smiley, I mean Mr O’Steins.)
- There is also the addition of the 3-year tithe once the temple construction begins. There are tithes for the poor, the widow, the children, the travelers in need. If we want to more literal the requirement for tithing for poor, the Levites and the temple up-keep would be more like 23-25%. So where are we on our tithing now?
- Take the many ministries of the United Methodist Church: We might be most familiar with the UMCOR in funding support to people in emergency disaster crisis. We have special offerings for missionaries, students higher education, clergy education, education in Africa, world/global poverty, local poverty and housing, care for native Americans, The UMW and UMM and UMYF support mission work and mission projects, We support Decatur, Mt Top, Murphy, Harps children’s homes, retirement homes for elder care, local ministries of feeding, supporting, caring, praying and clothing.
Where does tithing start and stop? Offerings, first fruits, gifts, giving, etc?
- Q: Do we tithe for each of these? We are compelled by our hearts to directly support the feeding, clothing, comforting and supporting those in need in direct response to Jesus call to do so in scripture.
- The physical plants, storage facility, meeting space, worship space, fellowship space, education space, and administrative space for our global, nations, regional, state, district and local ministries are much less interesting, but they are necessary to facilitate all the good we do above. We heat and cool, keep dry and safe, we gather for fellowship and worship and study places around the globe and the thousands of staff people to lead, serve, guide, facilitate and support our millions of members around the world.. all doing small parts to be the body of Christ, visible, tangible and present for a hurting and searching world.
What about giving when your heart is not in it? Give to earn or give to love?
- Q: Do we tithe for each of these? We are called to be the church physical and present as witness, a lamp stand. The oil in the lamp, the one to light it, clean and maintain it, the one to maintain and facilitate the city on a hill.
- What if we turned off the air/heat? didn’t have insurance? sold our building? had no paid staff, no worship space, no instruments, what if we had no overhead, it was just up to us as a group of people… What would we do to be the body of Christ, united, present and giving witness to Christ for the transformation of the world?
- It might satisfy the passive-agressive side of our minds, for a short time, we could say, see, we don’t need all that stuff! We can save our money.
- Q: What are we sharing our money for in the first place. Feed 5000 with out a kitchen and tables and chairs and fellowship hall? We would need a miracle! What if we had the miracle and the physical plant… could we do even more.
- A: There must have been those who didn’t think building the first temple was a good idea because the had the old mobile tent that was vintage, historical and traditional… and David and Solomon go and get us in the building business??!!
Solution: Text: Spiritual Birth… it’s all just a building and material until the Spirit is alive through it.
- Jesus fed the 5000 after he prayed and spirit shows up and begins to multiply the small gifts into more.
- Jesus reminded Nick, about the time the people were wandering in the wilderness when they had no temple expenses… God told Moses to trust God heal the sick, keep the people safe from the snakes, and drawn together for God’s purpose..
- Be faithful in the physical and open the door to spiritual things.
- The Tithe is about intentional-planned giving. It’s not just a matter of the heart or attention. It is practice of the will and mind and heart, that God uses to grow us spiritually.
- If money represents my labor, work, talent, skill, time and energy and I give God a regular, deliberate amount then my relationship with God is both, a) shared and b) connected, c) committed, d) intentional, e) on a track of growth and maturity.
- If I only need God when I am interested, inspirited, entertained, or required, then I don’t have a mutual relationship. I’m only a customer/consumer. God is interested in partnership and fellowship.
- The regular, planned, intentional gift is thought out and not a dependent on me.
- The regular, planned, intentional tithe is a statement of faith, that God expects something of me, just as I expect something of God.
Make your tithe, your gift, your giving as planned, intentional priority.
- God loves us so much, on purpose, intentional, as a planned gift for our benefit.
- Who ever believes, believes in sharing life, work and love that God has show us, for ever.
- Better start now.