Tithing Sermon, 2011

ADVENT II, 2011

Bible Sunday

There is an intimate and seamless connection between faith and works.  One cannot occur without the other.  If there is true faith, the works will follow as the fruit of that faith.

For most of us the works are manifested in our support and loving participation in the life of the church.  It is well known that in both the Old and New Testaments that tithing or the giving of one tenth of our gross income, to God is the minimum requirement asked of the faithful.

For many in these tough economic times it is a scary and anxiety producing thought to give up one tenth of one’s income to the church.  The human drive and instinct for self preservation tells us to put as much money away as possible against the coming economic collapse.  “Men’s hearts failing them for fear” we hear Jesus say in today’s Gospel reading regarding the signs of the end times.

We instinctively ask ourselves why we have to do this.  Well, why did Jesus have to come in the flesh?  Why did God Himself have to physically come to Earth in order to affect our salvation from damnation?  Why did He have to ascend back to heaven to complete that work of salvation?

In my sermon two weeks ago I told you about the vision of Micaiah, he gives a prophesy, in which he illustrates a meeting of Yahweh with the heavenly hosts. At this meeting Yahweh asks who will entice Ahab to go into battle so that he may perish (1 Kings 22:19-20). A spirit comes forward, and offers to “be a lying spirit in the mouth of the prophets” (1 Kings 22:22).   God asks the angels for their ideas in order to stretch and grow them.  God has no need for the advice of any angel.

Similarly God has no need for your money or your talents to accomplish His works on Earth.  Your giving and work for Him are to your great benefit, not His.

Have you ever thought of the story in Genesis about creation where God “rests” on the seventh day, thus creating the Sabbath?  Do you think that God needed to rest?  Do you think that God gets tired?  In the Psalms we read “He who watches overIsraelhe slumbers not nor sleeps.”  Remember that Jesus told the Pharisees that the Sabbath was made for man.  The creation story informs us that what God did was hard work, but the creation of the Sabbath was for the benefit of mankind, not God.  Similarly the incarnation was hard work also.  God, who has no need to rest, invites us to participate in His hard work. This is to say to join with Him in dealing with the problems of universe reality.  This invitation is not motivated by any need on God’s part, but rather for the sake of our own spiritual growth and sanctification.  Those two things are hard work as well.

Our giving ten percent of our gross income is the minimum requirement.  Sometimes God will ask an individual to give more.  Again not for any need for help on His part, but because the individual needs an additional push, or help to attain salvation.  Consider the story of the rich young ruler in Luke 18: 18-23.

18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. 20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. 21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. 22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. 23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

This man pressed Jesus on the issue of salvation and got an answer he didn’t like.  He was invited to become a disciple and accompany Jesus on his ministry.  This man needed to give up all of his possessions and to be a close disciple of the Lord’s in order to inherit eternal life.  The price was too high for him.

Jesus did not invite everyone to follow him literally, some like the demoniac who was exorcised in Mark 5:18-19.

18 And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. 19 Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.

Each person got the advice that was perfect for them.

The rich young ruler had been given many material blessings, but they turned out to be a hindrance to his salvation because he loved them more than God.  Hear the words of our Lord in the 12th chapter of Luke beginning at the 46th verse.

46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cuthim in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.

This is what our Lord was talking about when he said in Matthew 16: 25-27

 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.