Giving or Paying?

A sermon and a lesson I taught brought the subject of giving to mind. I tried to make the subject of tithes and offerings clear to my class. Later, my brain realized it wasn’t such a cut and dried subject.

I said, “We pay tithes and give offerings.”

I meant it to make a distinction between what was commanded by God—the tithe—as opposed to what was given over an above that ten percent. Tithe means one-tenth.

When the pastor began his sermon titled “Render unto God” an that same Sunday, my lips curled into that small grin, a token toward God that I understand He’s trying to make a point with me.

The lesson: I hadn’t moved as far away from the legalistic mindset as I thought I had.

Because there are seven things that are God’s due. In fact, we should “pay” these to him without qualm.

But most of the time we get a bit stingy. We forget that everything we have originates in the hands of a gracious and loving Father. It’s on loan but he lets us pretend we own it all.

In that case, what is the difference between the first tenth we’re commanded to pay and the amount over and above that we choose to give?

While that question bounces around in your mind, I’ll share the list of things the Bible tells are due to God.

God’s due is:

  • Our whole selves (Romans 12:1b-2b)
  • Our marriage (Psalm 127:1a)
  • Our children (Psalm 127:3)
  • Our time (Ephesians 5:15-17)
  • Our substance (Malachi 3:8)
  • Our talents (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Our worship (Hebrews 10:25)

Can we give one-tenth of these things? Well, maybe our talents, time, and substance, but the rest of the things we are called to pay our Lord can’t be divided up. So we give him all. Or we keep it all for ourselves.

On the flip side of that, the issue I taught to my class came from the last couple chapters of Nehemiah. There the Israelites made a pledge to God, and part of that was to be faithful in giving tithes and offerings to the temple.

Yes, God commanded a tithe of first fruits from them in the law. It was in that way he supported the workers in the tabernacle. And when the people in Nehemiah’s day went back on their promise (within months of making it because that’s how we humans roll), the Levites had to leave the temple and go back to farming and herding so they could eat.

A man’s got to eat.

In my life, I could eat a bit less often and it wouldn’t hurt me.

Because my Father has provided abundantly more than I need. And I’m grateful. I give back to him in time and money, but do I always give him what the Bible says he deserves?

Render…unto God the things which be God’s

Luke 20:25c KJV

All too often the answer is a negative one. I forget that all I have came from him. That he is the one truly in control of how things progress day by day.

And that Jesus paid it all. And it shouldn’t be hard for me to give back anything God asks from me.

So, I’ll ask again: what is the difference between the first tenth we’re commanded to pay and the amount over and above that we choose to give?

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