Friday, February 23, 2018

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #8 February 24, 2018

FEBRUARY 24, 2018
This week's lesson reminded me of the rebuke of Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23.  "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.  These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone."  This passage highlights the nature of the outworking of true faith in Christ.  Jesus was clearly emphasizing that while the scribes and Pharisees appeared to be scrupulous about the letter of the law, they were clearly deficient in keeping the spirit of the law and therefore not keeping the law at all. Jesus does not condemn their return of tithe but points out that the "weightier matters of the law" were being forgotten, namely "justice and mercy and faith" without which their faithful return of tithe would avail nothing. 
The lesson also makes the point that participation depends on commitment.  This is one of the most important aspects of tithing.  The affect of our investment in anything or anyone is to increase our attachment and identification with the person or the cause.  In Matthew 6, in the sermon on the mount, Jesus says, "For where your treasure is there will your heart be also".  To the extent that we are invested in the things of this world our affections can be drawn away from Christ.  Just as in a marriage, it is the time and attention and cultivation of the relationship which serves to prioritize one's spouse above all other relationships and commitments.  The lesson points out that most Christians give very little to support the cause of God.  This reflects a failure to understand how infinitely Christ has given to us and the purpose of giving.  Our giving is a barometer of our faith in God.  While God has promised to bless us as we give, the purpose for our giving is not for what we will receive in return or to avoid the consequences of not giving.  The true spirit of tithing is gratitude.  The lesson points out that we are "double blessed" in our giving in that we ourselves will receive a blessing but more importantly we are blessing others.  Acts 20:35 says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Certainly one of the greatest blessings of tithing is that it teaches us the lesson of trust in God.  This is of paramount importance since we understand that the individual appropriation of the gift of salvation at an experiential level is received by faith.  There is scarcely any other area of our lives that touches us at a more practical level and demonstrates the reality of our religious experience than how we handle money. Systematic giving provides an opportunity for us to be constantly exercising our faith and observing how God works.  The apostle Paul ministered to many churches and his sacrificial love for the people and devotion to God led him to refuse wages he rightfully deserved if it would be a stumblingblock to the members of the church.
Under Thursdays outline the lesson touches on the most important subject of all in addressing tithing in relation to salvation by faith.  The point is emphasized that tithing does not in any way contribute to our salvation or merit or earn anything for the believer in the plan of redemption. The idea of deserving or meriting anything suggests we are saved by works which is clearly contrary to scripture. The lesson references Romans 3:19-24 which says "by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified".  What may be missed in a hasty reading of verse 23 and 24 is that the same subject "all have sinned" continues in the phrase "being justified freely by His grace".  In other words, the apostle Paul is pointing out the fact that the grace of God has benefited both believer and unbeliever alike.  The lesson also references Romans 4:5 which says, "God justifies the ungodly".  This is a further demonstration that there is no credit to the believer in tithing anymore than any other works which may be done.  Our giving does reveal our attitude and reminds us that we belong to God and that He has freely given us all that we enjoy in this life and has placed in our hands the gift of eternal life to come.  The lesson ends with the beautiful statement that "every breath, every heartbeat, every moment of existence comes from the Lord."  This sentiment is echoed in Desire of Ages page 660: "To the death of Christ we owe even this earthly life. The bread we eat is the purchase of His broken body. The water we drink is bought by His spilled blood. Never one, saint or sinner, eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the body and the blood of Christ. The cross of Calvary is stamped on every loaf. It is reflected in every water spring."
~Michael Duncan