Yesterday in Sunday School we were talking about tithing and looking at it from some of the classical perspectives, and that led into stewardship. Of course, me being me, I was viewing it from a perspective of discipleship.
What do we owe God? What do we own? When is enough, enough?
One key point was made in our discussion that I wanted to expand on today. That is ownership.
I’m not being critical at all when I say we tend to be selfish. I know I am. I also think that most everyone else, if they were honest with themselves, can identify things in their life that they become selfish about.
Be it your favorite food, the management of your time, things that you collect, or any number of things, there are things that you would really prefer to gather more to yourself that really we are not prepared to give up to someone else. Not that we would necessarily act on that selfish streak, but it is there, and the temptation is always present.
We’ve been invited to partake in the Devine Nature of God.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
2 Peter 1:2-4 (NKJV)
We’ve have been blessed with the ability to partake in God’s Devine Nature. Two things jump out at us here if we consider these two verses.
First, we are not given a full measure of the Devine Nature, but we have been given the opportunity to partake in it. Next, this opportunity appears to be contingent on us successfully escaping “the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
But what Peter doesn’t focus on in this passage, is that while we have this opportunity, we also have an obstacle to committing to the level of separation from corruption required to enable us to actually partake, the flesh.
The flesh being ever present as we remain in the world is persistent in presenting the nature that we are born with as an alluring option to pursuing the Devine Nature.
The enemy is going to use the flesh to prevent us from living in the manner that the Holy Spirit dwelling in us desires.
Paul refers to this as a constant battle.
I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Galatians 5:16-18 (CSB)
Putting both passages from Peter and Paul together we begin to see how there is a real possibility of partaking in God’s Devine Nature if we walk in the Spirit.
So, these things are something we can focus on and strive for.
It appears that we have gotten a far off from the discussion in Sunday School that prompted this, but I wanted to lay some groundwork.
We will often hear about the giving of our tithes and offerings.
There are differing opinions on just what are the particulars about tithing are. Some will insist that it is 10% of your income. Others will say that this amount which as allocated to spoils from the victories accomplished by Isreal.
I’m not really going to even bother to entertain that debate because of where I’d like to take this discussion.
Offerings are the portion of our giving that is over and beyond our tithe.
I’m going to say something that may shock some church regulars. What if I told you that you could just as well forget about tithing and offerings?
Well, that is where I want to go.
Going there is going to require we take a hard look at our selfish nature and battle against it.
Before we get into the details of this, we need to understand how far we typically stand outside of what is just in the eyes of God. Hopefully, when we see it from another perspective, we will be able to see the justice in it as well. Our position has been fortified by our selfish nature. Since the day we were born we have been told we have ownership by both the world and our flesh. We accept this as fact. Most of us believe this so strongly we believe it to be a right.
Consider This Scenario
You build a home, complete with all that is needed to be a comfortable living space. Then out of the goodness of your heart, you decided that you will allow someone to live in the home.
At what point, does this the owner of the house you built transfer from you to the people you allowed to occupy it?
The answer to this is obvious, isn’t it? If there has not been a contractual agreement between you and the occupants of the home, the ownership never changes. They remain the occupants until such time as they leave the home. Meanwhile, you remain the owner.
When you create something, using your own materials, it belongs to you. The only two possibilities of transferring ownership between you and the occupants.
The first would be if you sold them or gave them the home. The other would be if you simply abandoned the property and even if that were the case, you as the builder could likely reclaim ownership at will. I’m not a lawyer but my less than legal mind just feels like that would be the case.
Now, if that is settled, consider God the Creator, the key word here is ‘Creator’.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
John 1:1-4 (CSB)
“Apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.” Nothing in existence hasn’t been created by Jesus, period! If you believe the Word of God, this fact is inescapable, everything belongs to God. All the universe, all the earth, every body of water, the air in the sky, the land that forms the continents that we are familiar with. Every living creature was designed and created by Him, to include us!
So, in the light of our scenario, who owns our time, who owns our money, who owns our possessions? It’s not us. They, we, are the property of the Creator.
We are His possession. We own nothing of our own and only have the use of the things that the Creator has permitted us access to.
Therefore, tithe and offerings are nothing more than returning to God that which is His to begin with.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t give tithes and offerings, we should. But as we give these we should have the understanding that what we have been given to use is not our own. Ownership of all we possess is God’s, we are His. Legally we may by the worlds standard own things, but the reality is that God owns it all by merit of being the Creator.
Our standard is Jesus, the Creator.
We have been brain-washed to believe we own things. We are concerned about the use of ‘our time’. We parse out the money ‘we’ earn as golden treasure.
We are the stewards of the time we have. We are a steward of the resources that we have gathered. Ultimately, all things belongs to the Creator. The one who made us and made everything around us.