What is a Christian's Responsibility?
In today's world of multi-media Christian ministries, it seems that we are flooded with requests for financial aid. Every way we turn, there seems to be an almost desperate need for our "faith-pledges." As we listen to the pleas, our minds may wonder just what God would want us to do. We are told by many preachers that we should give our 10% share. This would be in keeping with God's commandment to the nation of Israel to tithe 10% of all that they earned (Deut. 14:22, Leviticus 27:30).
The word "tithe" actually means a tenth part. As a result of this emphasis on monetary intake, we have seen some TV ministers become the heads of multi-million dollar organizations. Is that really what pleases God, or should we look for a different understanding to what the Bible teaches concerning how, and what, we should give? Is our Christian responsibility to Him fulfilled after we have donated money to our church?
Spiritual Application to the Tithing Principle
While we see the Jewish system of tithing 10% as something that could be a powerful influence for good, nevertheless, the New Testament reveals a much deeper commitment required of the Christian. To the Christian, the Lord speaks not as to a servant, telling him to do this, or do that. On the contrary, He speaks as a father to a son. He gives us knowledge of His will and plans, without giving exact limitations on what we can, or cannot do. He places us under what He calls, "the perfect law of liberty." This is the law where love governs our actions. This law of liberty actually releases us from any direct obligations of fulfilling a percentage tithing. God wants us to give as the love in our hearts would dictate.
When we look back at how much God gave to the nation of Israel, we can appreciate that His 10% requirement was a small amount to ask. God certainly did not need their temporal support. His purpose was to instill in the Israelites a greater appreciation of God's watchful care over them. It further taught them how to be generous, and give of themselves. In addition, it provided support for the poor and the widows among the people (Deut. 14:28,29). All the things that the Israelites gave to God came back to them multiplied and strengthened with His blessings.
What Does a Christian Owe to God?
To sincere Christians, the question may arise, "what shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?" (Psa. 116:12). We, who have so much to be thankful for, who are blessed so far above natural Israel, may genuinely be confused as to where our giving should end. The more our hearts learn to appreciate the blessings of divine favor which have been showered upon us, the more we begin to feel that one tenth is not enough. In fact, we see that even if we were able to give Him all the wealth of the world, it would never be enough to devote to our loving Heavenly Father.
The Apostle Paul offers a suggestion. He says, "I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). Paul's counsel of presenting ourselves as living sacrifices, comes closer to our reasonable service than anything else we can give. We are assured that dedicating our lives to God is truly an acceptable sacrifice, if properly offered in the name and merit of Jesus. And so, the proper course for us to take, is to offer our little all on the Lord's altar, in full consecration to Him. God's simple desire is beautifully expressed in Proverbs 23:26, "My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways."
How Can We Serve Him?
Once we decide to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, the natural question arises, "how can we serve Him?" So many of us have great temporal responsibilities with our jobs and our families. What can possibly be left to give to the Lord? His answer to us is reassuring. All that we have devoted to God, He returns to our care and custody. He makes us stewards of them- our time, talents, influence, money, etc. We are to do the best that we can with these in the Lord's service. If we use all that He has entrusted back to us to glorify His name, He accepts the matter as though every act, every word, and every deed, were rendered directly in His service. This is true even though these may, of necessity, be used in attending to our earthly needs, and the needs of our families. The Apostle Paul says to us, "whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
During this Gospel Age, the Lord is seeking a peculiar people. He seeks those who would worship Him in spirit and in truth- from the heart and not by compulsion. Because of this, He does not put us under strict rules and regulations. He leaves us free, in order that each, by his own conduct, may manifest the sincerity, or the insincerity of the covenant that he made.
Parable of the Talents
This is illustrated in the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25:14-30. Leaving on a journey, the master entrusted to his servants various amounts of money. When the master returned from his journey, he called the servants to make account for themselves, as to their stewardship. The faithful servants were the ones who used the master's money to further serve him. The unfaithful servant was the one who simply buried what he was given. This parable beautifully illustrates the Christians sacrificial relationship with the Lord. Having presented all to the Lord, consecrated Christians are now considered stewards of the things that once belonged to them. They are allowed to do with them as they choose. In all this, the Lord does not expect perfection. He simply asks that we do the best we can, remembering that we "are not under the law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14). As the parable points out, the unfaithful servant, who failed to use his Master's goods with energy in his service, was rejected and put out of further stewardship.
A Greater Obligation Than Tithing
While the Christian has a greater liberty than the Old Testament Israelite regarding tithing, and the letter of the Law, we can see that in this age, God is dealing on a higher level. In proportion as the Christian possesses the proper spirit of love, he will see a much greater obligation than his Jewish brother. Those who have made a covenant of sacrifice with God should see their service as a wonderful privilege. Our sacrifices for Him will be indicative of our heart conditions, and of our true appreciation of His goodness towards us. How very different this is from the thought of merely giving monetary support to the work of an organization. Though we cannot judge the motives of anyone appealing for money, we feel that this takes far too prominent a place in the efforts of many. The call for help often outweighs the message that is given. Jesus is the Lord of the Harvest. He will provide anything that His work needs to be accomplished. If we have been lax or careless regarding our service to God, let us put forth renewed effort in serving Him, the King of the Universe, the Giver of every good thing.