Singing for your supper

Yesterday we were looking at Deuteronomy 14v22-29 and Moses address to the Israelites about tithing. It’s a fascinating passage and immensely helpful but not one we naturally tend to think about when we think about giving. I attempted to summarise it something like this: “Giving is a celebration of God’s generosity and an expression of faith in him that mirrors his generosity in providing for those in need.”

In short giving is God’s people giving back to God a fraction (1/10th) of what he has generously given them. It’s a passage replete with pictures, of corn and wine and flocks and herds, of the family who’ve been blessed so much that they can’t carry their tenth to the tent of meeting/temple and so instead have to convert it into silver and then buy stuff nearer to the temple/tabernacle. Just imagine for a minute what you’d need to carry 1/10th of all you have, isn’t God generous!

It always feels a bit like singing for my supper when as a pastor you have to preach on giving. But this passage contains some huge challenges for us that we all need to wrestle with?

Do I think of giving as a celebration, is it something I rejoice to do? Tithing and taking that tithe and eating it at the temple/tabernacle was a reminder of who they were because of God’s saving act and sustaining. They were God’s people, they can rejoice that they are showered with blessings because they are God’s people. That’s so often not the way we approach church let alone giving which we do with the spirit of the curmudgeon not the celebrant. Giving begins by recognising who we are in Christ and lavish love and grace that made that possible and rejoicing in that sonship we are saved into.

Do I see God as generous? This is an area of huge challenge because it’s a battle for us. Every advert tells us we need more. Every product placement or influencer who promotes something is telling us we don’t have enough, we don’t have what we need. Every update or new product launch says what you’ve got isn’t good enough let alone something to be grateful for you must have this. And all of that, as well as our rapaciously avaricious sinful hearts, works against seeing God as generous. But God has given his people, God has given all people, absolutely everything they have. It’s all gift! And God is generous. Is that how I see everything I have? Only when we see things like that will we be liberated from crying mine, and will we be able to approach giving in the right way.

Do I see giving as an expression of faith? Be brutally honest with yourself; how much do we really live by faith? Not can you look back to the past and a moment or two when you lived by faith, but am I daily, annually acting so that I live by faith? Are we as a church living by faith? Israel are to set aside a tenth of their produce from the start of the harvest. That’s right a tenth right from the get go, not of the surplus or the left overs but of the whole harvest. So that they learn to fear the Lord. So they learn to trust him. So they learn to rely on him not on what is in their storehouses or barns. That is another challenge to us. Does my giving reflect trust in God to provide? Does what I give build my faith muscles as it forces me to rely on God or do I do it without thinking about it or feeling it because I’m only giving from my surplus?

Do I give in a way that mirrors God’s generosity to those in need? God gives to his people and his people are to give so that the Levites are not neglected and can serve God and teach his word. God’s people are to give so that every three years provision is made for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. The nations round about Israel should look at Israel’s giving and the care it provides for the vulnerable and be amazed at the generosity of God seen in his people. Does my giving reflect my becoming more like my generous God?

Those four questions are questions we need to wrestle with.

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