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It's important to give appropriately. God has made it clear that we are to tithe, but where do we give this tithe? Malachi 3:10 answers this question. It says, "Bring the entire tithe to the storehouse." So we bring it to the house of God. There is a relationship between where we give and biblical authority. The reason we take it to the house of God is so "there may be food in my house." In other words, that there will be provision in the house of God.
Some may ask if they have to give their tithe to the church. They may think they can give their tithe to United Way or some other social organization. Giving to those organizations is good, but it is not a tithe. Some may ask if they can give their tithe to some para-church ministry. Or their neighbor is having problems, so can't they give their tithe to their neighbor? We can give money to our neighbor, but it is not tithe. Tithe belongs to the Lord and the Bible says to bring it to the storehouse -- the house of God. Giving it appropriately is giving it to the house of God.
We see examples throughout the New Testament. Look at the model of the first church. Sometimes we read Acts 2:45, which says, "They sold their possessions and shared their proceeds with those in need." It sounds like they sold something and if anybody had a need they just gave it to them.
The Bible gives us the procedure for giving. The early church didn't sell something and give the proceeds to anybody it wanted to and count it as giving unto the Lord. Acts 4:34 explains it: "No one in the group needed anything. From time to time those who owned fields or houses sold them, brought the money and gave it to the apostle." Then the money was given to anyone who needed it.
One of the believers was Joseph, a Levite born in Cyprus. Paul called him Barnabus, which means "one who encourages." Joseph owned a field, sold it and took the money to the apostles. There is a relationship with authority and where we give the money if we are going to give the money to the Lord. Abraham gave his tithe to the priest Melchizedek, which shows a biblical precedent for authority.
In Acts 5:2, we find Ananias and Sapphira lying to the Holy Spirit. "They kept back part of the money for themselves and his wife knew about this. They agreed to it, but he brought the rest of the money and gave it to the apostles."
It shows the process. In Acts 6, they even organized themselves because people brought their money. There were orphans and widows and people who were neglected and so the early believers took their tithe to the apostles, who organized to distribute it fairly.
There is nothing wrong with giving money to para-church ministries or social organizations. Those are worthy causes. But we need to understand how God sees it. In other words, meet the needs of the storehouse first, that there may be food in His house, that there is provision in the house of God.
One of the reasons the storehouse can't meet more people's needs is because people are not giving to the storehouse. God always has plenty of things to go through the storehouse, if the people of God would simply submit to them.
When you tithe, you are trusting God. Tithing is trusting that God can do more with 90 percent than we can do with 100 percent. In other words, God can take the 90 percent we have left over and can stretch it further than we can the 100 percent in all of our wisdom. We don't have the capabilities to protect ourselves. There are a lot of forces of darkness and we need the protection of God.
But isn't that extortion, protection money? Absolutely! But God does it because He wants to provide, to meet our needs. The devourer wants to be released upon our finances and God is trying to protect them. He says if we will trust Him, His provision and protection is going to come. Whenever we are faithful to God, He puts a divine protection around us and the enemy has to go through God to come to us. If we're not faithful to God, then we are on our own. A friend of mine puts it this way, "You can pay the Lord or pay the Devil, but you are going to pay one of them."
Some people say they can't afford to tithe. Actually, they can't afford not to tithe. Here's an interesting study: Go through the Bible to see how God used poor people to fund His work. God used poor people more than He used rich people. II Corinthians 8 says, "Now I want to tell you dear friends what God, in His kindness, has done for the churches in Macedonia. Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, their wonderful joy and deep poverty have overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more and they did it of their own freewill. The begged us again and again for the gracious privilege of sharing in the gift for the Christians in Jerusalem."
Best of all it says, "They went beyond our highest hopes for their first action was to dedicate themselves to the Lord and to use for whatever direction God might give them." So they first gave themselves to the Lord and then they gave financially. That is the order. If we don't give ourselves to the Lord first, then it will be very difficult for us to give financially.
God often uses the poor. Remember the story about Elijah? Did God send him to the rich person or to the poor one? Look at the story again in I Kings 17:10: "So he went to Zarephath and he arrived at the gates of the village and saw a widow gathering sticks and he said unto her, 'Would you please bring me a cup of water?' She was going to get it and as she was going to get it he called to her, 'Bring me a bite of bread too.' But, she said, 'I swear by the Lord your God that I don't have a single piece of bread in the house and I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal and then my son and I will die.' But, Elijah said to her, 'Don't be afraid, go ahead and cook that last meal, but bake me a little loaf of bread first. Afterward, there will still be enough food for you and your son. But this is what the Lord the God of Israel says, "There will always be enough flour and oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again." ' So, she did what Elijah said and she, Elijah and her son continued to eat from her supply of flour and oil for many days. But no matter how much they used there was always enough left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised Elijah."
She was getting ready to fix her last meal, and then she and her son would die. Why did God send Elijah to her? Why didn't He send Elijah to a rich person? Because God wanted to provide for her. Sending Elijah to her was God's grace.
He didn't fill up her jars so she could go to the market to sell and make a profit; He just met her need. God said, "I will meet your need, not your greed," and He promises to do that. One of the reasons we give is so we can receive God's provision. Some of us have not received the provision because we were not obeying God in this area, and God says, "I don't care how rich or how poor you are, this applies across the board."
God wants to meet our needs. God wants to make the supply. Whenever we give, we release the promises of God. When Jesus was tempted by the Devil, He told the Devil, "Don't test the Lord your God." So we can't test God unless God gives us permission. In Malachi 3, God says, "You can test me on this one and I will prove it. You test me and you'll see."
God wants to support our priesthood and He uses a variety of ways to do it. Sometimes He'll provide supernaturally. Sometimes He'll have us ask. Sometimes He'll just have us get a job. Sometimes our priesthood will be our job. Not always. But let's keep that provision coming. Let's obey God. Let's trust God. Let's do it His way. Don't rob Him. Let's give appropriately in the manner and way He tells us to, and let's begin to walk and claim His provision and His protection in our finances.
There is a lot the Lord desires to do and we are the people the Lord is going to use to fund it. That is the way He planned it, that is the way He designed it. So we need to be obedient. Every one of us needs to get an experience because we need the provision and protection. The Lord said, "Test me in this."
This is a sensitive topic for many. It is usually more sensitive if we struggle in this area. Don't feel condemned or judged. The Lord says, "I want to provide. I want to be there. I would like to keep the devourer from taking." The Lord says He wants to be our provider, and so it is an invitation of grace. The Lord Jesus spent more time talking about this subject than He did about prayer and discipleship. He did it because it is an area we struggle with.
It is not about the things of this earth; it is about the things that last forever and that is where we have to invest our lives and our energies. We are priests and we have a priestly calling and function that God wants to fulfill and supply.