Many churches I have noticed do not teach tithing. Many preachers would say that tithing is an Old Testament teaching that has been erased by the New Testament. Others say that tithing is still very relevant and should be practiced and preached in every Christian church. I just happen to think that they are both right. But…at the same time, I believe that tithing is essential in our spiritual growth. It’s not that I am wish-washy or that I just can’t make up our mind. I just don’t believe that either of these theological stances hold water and I believe that both of these theological stances are imperative. Have I confused you yet? Stay with me and let me explain where I am coming from. Let’s go back to Cain and Abel.
In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
Here we have two brothers who have learned the importance of giving back to The Lord. The issues with Cain and Abel do not stem from giving. Cain gives the world its first murder and that was the murder of his own brother. The intense jealousy against his brother arose from their offerings, but it had nothing to do with how much or how little they gave. The issue was what was given and what it meant to each of them.
I have to stop just for a moment with your permission to mention the very prominent place that money has in our society. Sure, this was Cain and Abel, but how many murders in history have been shrouded in money in some form or fashion. Money is so closely tied to our spirit and the way we handle it moves our heart and affects our relationships both with The Lord and with people. Money is a hugely spiritual issue and it always will be.
The Scripture says that Cain gave to The Lord some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to The Lord. But. But! BUT!! This word shouts at the top of its lung that there was a huge difference between the two offerings. Cain and Abel’s offering came way before there was any teaching about tithing. The first time we see anything about tithing is with Abram and Melchizedek.
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And blessed be God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
At the time of Cain and Abel, there was no precedence of tithing. There was not any teaching as to what percent to give to the Lord or if it should be the firstfruits, a lamb, a ram, a dove, a rock, or a blade of grass. Cain and Abel were not living under Mosaic law nor did they have the example of Abraham tithing to Melchizedek. They were just giving. They obviously agreed that they needed to be giving, but it’s that little word ‘but’ that tells the whole story. Cain gave some, but Abel gave fat portions. What they gave was drastically different. It was not different simply because one offering was grain and the other was an animal sacrifice. Later in the Mosaic law, both animals and grains would be acceptable offerings. The substance of their offering was not the issue. The issue is that Cain gave ‘some.’
He gave some. He just went through and picked up some of the fruits of the soil. Maybe he had a wheel barrel there and just plunged a bucket deep into the pile of grain and heaved it into the wheel barrel. Maybe he just stuck his hand down into the pile and pulled up giant handfuls. I am not sure what he did exactly, but what we do know is that he gave ‘some.’ I don’t want your attention to go the quantity. Simply because we are told that Cain gave ‘some,’ it does not mean that he gave ‘little.’ He may have given an offering of more value than his brother. We don’t know. What we do know is that he gave ‘some.’ He was non-discriminant. It did not matter to him which pile of grain he picked from. He did not really consider if it should be this pile or that. It was not important to him. He just gave any old handful that happened to be closest to him at the time of gathering the offering. He did not look for the best pile. He did not look for the best grain out of the best pile of grain. He just went and got ‘some.’ It was no big deal.
On the other hand, we have Abel. The Scripture says that Abel gave fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Hmmm. First, we have to understand that the fat portions were the best portions. I happen to like a little fat on my steak, some people don’t. I think the fat gives it a little more flavor. I will agree that I don’t just want a plate full of fat, but fat is good. The word ‘fat’ comes from the idea of ‘the best.’ Now, we are seeing something totally different from Abel’s offering compared to Cain’s. It was not the substance, nor was it the value. The issue was their attitude in giving. Cain just dropped a bucket into a pile of grain and pulled up whatever. Abel took his time strolling through his flock rounding up all of his firstborn. Taking the time and effort to remember the generations of his flock. This was not a simple process. He then stood them side by side ruling out this group and that group because he wanted to make sure he had the best. A determined process of finding, gathering, and identifying the very best of his firstborn. Cain gave some. Abel gave his best.
The process that Abel went through revealed a great desire to give in a way that honored The Lord. I am going to step into the confessional now for just a moment. When I was younger and much more foolish than I am now, I would go to the greeting card section usually just a few minutes before my wife’s birthday party or our anniversary celebration. I really did not need that much time because I figured that all of these cards have been written by great greeting card writers from the Hallmark Hall of Fame. It was impossible to pick a bad card so I just found the right section be it birthdays, anniversaries, or whatever. I looked for flowery, girly-type decor on the card and I picked it up. To my credit, I did usually sit down and try to write a heartfelt message to my wife, but choosing the card would take me almost 30 seconds if I had to wait for someone to get out of the way. What message did that send? It was not important. Thankfully, my hand-written notes saved me from some really bad cards. (I know a lot of women just said to themselves, “What a pig?” Well, I can’t argue, but don’t give up on the book just yet ) Cain just walked up to the God-offering section and picked a card, any card. He did not read it. He did not consider what it said. It was from the right section and he felt that was good enough. Abel though was more like my wife. She will read every card in the appropriate section. She will consider the colors, graphics, and pictures along with the prose written on the inside. Time will pass as she contemplates whether a heartfelt card would be better or a humorous one. Many times, she will buy one heartfelt and one humorous because she so wants the card to be meaningful. Abel read the cards, all of them, and he chose the best.
Just as the greeting card or gift reflects the relationship between a man and his wife so does the offering given to The Lord reflect the relationship between you and The Lord. Since those foolish days of picking any old card, I have developed something that many men do not have…emotions. I am now able and desiring to choose a meaningful card because I want her to know how deeply I love her. Shouldn’t we do the same for The Lord? Look at what The Lord said to Cain:
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”
Cain was not accepted by The Lord because when he gave his offering, there was no consideration to whom he was giving. The Lord had been good to Cain, but the gift came out of an attitude of obligation, not thankfulness. There was no attempt to choose the best. He simply gave ‘some,’ and The Lord did not accept him. Wow! What a powerful lesson! How many of us are putting something into the offering plate each Sunday without reading all the cards? How many people are like Cain wondering why the Lord does not seem to be with them because they feel that the ‘some’ they are giving should be enough? But they are not taking their time. They are just reaching into their wallet and grabbing whatever and dropping it in. “Wait a minute you stinking preacher man! Are you telling me that God doesn’t want me to give? Are you saying that the church doesn’t need my offering? Where is your church? I want to come to your church just so I can NOT give when the offering plate passes by me. That will show you! Loser!”
We have reduced The Lord to something like the Salvation Army bucket in front of Walmart. We drop in just a few coins or maybe even a few dollars, but it is an afterthought. We did not go to Walmart to give to the Salvation Army. We do not consider what would be our best gift. We just throw ‘some’ money into it. But The Lord is not a charity. He is not a worthy cause. He is not a fundraiser to help people in a time of need. He is our Father. He is our Provider. He is our Defender. He is our life. He is our everything. He is worthy to receive our best, not our afterthoughts.
The Lord has designed the interaction between human beings in an effort to reveal Himself to us. He has chosen that a family would be a man and wife and that they would have children. I will save the analogy of a father to his children for a later time, but for now, let’s consider the institution of marriage. This design is purposeful to help us grasp the love of God for us. He says that He is the bridegroom and we are the bride. Consider a man who is completely in love with his bride, the look of adoration on his face as she walks down the aisle as he awaits her at the altar. He lifts her veil, recites his vows, with a heart bursting with affection all the while. God says, “That’s how I love you.” I have always loved it that when God used this comparison. It is a great analogy, but He did not simply say that He was the husband and we are the wife. He refers to us as the Bride and He is the Groom. Marriage is difficult and we don’t always feel that sense of love and affection for our spouse. There are some days that we just want to kill each other. (Be honest!) So, the Lord does not simply use the terms husband and wife, but He goes to the most romantic time of the marriage, the time of newlyweds to help us understand how He loves us and how He wants us to love Him.
Because we are unable to see the physical face of God when He gives to us, we might miss the great affection with which He gives. The Scripture says that every good and perfect gift comes from The Lord so He has affectionately given to you everything and anything that is good in your life. But He did not just reach into His pile of blessing and give to you ‘some’ of what He had. No, instead, He has ordained your life, choosing a plan that He believes will be perfect for you. He has chosen you and developed a unique plan for you that is wonderful. He walked through Heaven’s reserves and picked out the very best dreams to make come true. And then out of the very best dreams, He compared and then chose the most perfect plan for your life. And His heart is bursting with affection as He lays that plan before you. How can we give to The Lord just ‘some’ and not our very best? How insulting that would be! We might wonder why God even cares. After all, we are just tiny little people in the midst of billions upon billions. What’s the big deal? If those thoughts cross our mind though, it is clear that we do not understand the great nature of God’s love for us as individuals. If the Lord was ok with us giving ‘some’ instead of our ‘best,’ then we would have to say that He is ok with giving us just some old plan. We would have to say that He just reached into the bucket of plans and whatever He pulled out was sufficient. We would have to say that it was ok with Him for us to harm ourselves because to give the Lord less than our best is sinful, unloving, and it removes us from the Lord. If every good and perfect gift comes from above, the more distance there is between us and the Lord, the less our life will be. God is not ok with this. He is always working for the very best. He requires our very best so that we remain close to Him and enjoy the very best He can give to us.
I was just about to stop writing for now, and the Lord said to me, “Tell them the wonder of this.” So bear with me for just another moment so that we can consider that the One who holds everything in His hands loves us with unlimited affection. He lives to do things to remind us of how much He loves us. He is leaving love notes (you are reading one now), flowers, miracles, strength, and power, but He does so with great anticipation of the warmth it will bring to your heart. He holds every star in place. He moves the dust of planets through space as He chooses. He is well acquainted with every living thing on this Earth. He is Supreme. The greatest evil is defeated by His whisper. All resources obey His whim. The glory of God is beyond my word bank. It is impossible to describe the tiniest part of Him even with the grandest words on Earth. How great is our God!!! How great is our God!!! But I believe the peak of His glory is found in the pounding of His heart as He prepares each blessing for us. If you miss everything else in this book, don’t miss this. In each moment of every day, you are the center and focus of His love. You have all of His attention. He is the Lover of your soul. He knows your name. Isn’t He worth your best? Stop giving Him ‘some’ and with great affection, give your best.