No Really, God Wants To Bless You

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Do you realize that God really does want to bless his people? He wants to bless the non-believer, too, by the way, but their sin obviously blocks the flow of his intentional goodness in their lives. But in terms of his blessing on the people who call on his name, one of the ways he communicates his desire to bless is through the formal blessing of a pastor, or the priest. And when the pastor/priest offers the Aaronic Blessing, as the words are spoken, it is God himself who is entering into that moment to speak and to lay hands on his people to pour forth his favor upon them.

Aaron's Blessing

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 6:22-27

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them.”

God wants to bless you. Really! That is not just something we say off-handedly, he deeply desires to pour out of the storehouse of his treasury the multifaceted favor of his glorious riches. So let me just say it one more time, “May God richly bless you!”

Out of my pastoral bag of benedictions, this blessing found in Numbers 6 is my favorite. There are many beautiful benedictions found in Scripture, but this is the one I most often use. I typically use it at the end of a service to dismiss the congregation as they go back into their world, and for me, it is not merely a pastoral ritual to end a meeting and send the people on their way, it is invoking the literal blessing of Almighty God himself.

Invoking the literal blessing of Almighty God himself. To be honest, I am not sure I have ever thought of it quite like that before. I have sincerely offered this blessing countless times, but I have never fully noticed the context that from which it originates here in Numbers 6. And specifically, I don’t think I have ever caught that this is the Lord himself telling Moses to instruct Aaron, the high priest, and his sons, how to bless the people. And here is the clincher: they are to bless the people with this benediction on behalf of the Lord himself.

How often we mindlessly say, “God bless you.” We use it in response to a sneeze. We use it to end a letter. We use it to affirm affection for someone we care for. And we even use it for people we don’t really care for, that is, for people we don’t really know but want to politely and kindly acknowledge with a reference to our God. So we say, “God bless you!”

But do you realize that God really does want to bless his people? He wants to bless the non-believer, too, by the way, but their sin obviously blocks the flow of his intentional goodness in their lives. But in terms of his blessing on the people who call on his name, one of the ways he communicates his desire to bless is through the formal blessing of a pastor, or in this case of Numbers, the Levitical priests. And when the pastor/priest offers this formulaic expression, as the words are spoken, it is God himself who is entering into that moment to speak and to lay hands on his people to bless them with his favor.

So just what is the blessing that God is giving? If you look at the Aaronic blessing, it includes just about everyone one could hope for:

  • “May the Lord bless you.” In a comprehensive way, it means blessing—God’s general goodness, kindness and benevolence.
  • “May the Lord keep you.” It also includes his watchful care. God promises to watch over, hold close and protect his people.
  • “May the Lord make his face shine upon you.” God desires to look upon you with warm love and the Fatherly pride.
  • “May the Lord be gracious to you.” The blessing includes his grace, which is his unmerited and unlimited favor.
  • “May the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” God will bless you by giving you audience—paying attention to you, granting you his precious time—and letting you know that all will be well with you, no matter how it may seem otherwise.

That is the blessing—not just what your pastor, priest or I want to give to you as you go your way. No, this is God himself, using your spiritual overseer as his mouthpiece, telling you what he desires to do for you.

Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them. (Numbers 6:27, NLT)

Wow! May the Lord bless you!

Going Deeper With God: I think the appropriate response to this pastoral benediction is to simply say, “thank you, God.”

What God Is Deadly Serious About

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

What do the seemingly draconian Old Testament laws about sexual unfaithfulness in marriage tell us about God and his desire for the entire human family? The Bible clearly teaches us that God is deadly serious about the sanctity of marriage and the welfare of the family that derives from the marriage; namely the innocent children who are forever wounded by the unfaithfulness of their parents. And while we no longer serve up the death penalty to adulterers—and by Jesus’ re-definition of adultery in the heart, aren’t we all glad that capital punishment is off the table—God cares just as much today about the health of the human family as he did in the Old Testament. Your family’s health matters to God—make sure it matters that much to you, too!

Marriage Covenant

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 5:20-21, 28

If a wife has gone astray by being unfaithful to her husband and has defiled herself through sexual immorality [and her husband suspects unfaithfulness]—at this point the priest must put the wife under oath by saying, “May the people know that the LORD’S curse is upon you when he makes you infertile…” But if she has not defiled herself and is pure, then she will be unharmed and will still be able to have children.

It would be very easy as a modern reader with a western worldview to discard this chapter out of hand and think that God and/or the Judeo-Christian tradition had it out for women. On its face, Numbers 5 seems unfair to women, allowing them to be accused of sexual unfaithfulness by a jealous husband with impunity. The suspicious husband could accuse his wife of unfaithfulness and even if she was proven to be innocent, she would still suffer the embarrassment of public humiliation while he suffered no consequence for bringing a false accusation. As one who had been falsely accused said upon being proven innocent, “Now where can I go to get my reputation back”? Being found guilty, even being accused, would mean enduring a horrible ordeal for a wife. For sure, to our modern sensibilities, the ritual law covering a husband’s jealous suspicion of an unfaithful wife seems unfair, misogynistic and draconian.

But, as is the case in so many of these chapters that concern civil and religious law, there is more to the story here. A proper reading and understanding of this chapter requires us to consider one, the culture at the time—God was forming a people without a system of civil law into a nation that was to now live under the rule of his law; two, the context of the law—the law’s greater purpose was to teach the people about the holiness of God and his demands for their holiness as his set apart people; three, a wider reading of Scripture to see how the laws against bearing false witness, the law for dealing with an adulterous husband, and the laws of restitution gave context to this specific law; and four, the new covenant law of love that Jesus imposed over the sexually promiscuous. Likewise, we need to take into account what Jesus also had to say about how husbands treated their wives, the repugnance of divorce, and even how self-righteous men were actually committing adultery simply (and likely continuously) by lusting after women in their hearts.

So, understanding this chapter, which is what I would classify as what theologians term “a hard saying of the Bible”, requires some extra work on our part. Namely, it is important here that we follow the proper hermeneutical principle of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.

Having said that, what does this seemingly draconian law tell us about God and his desire for not only his people, but the entire human family? I have a strong belief that this clearly teaches us that God is deadly serious about the sanctity of marriage and the welfare of the family that derives from the marriage; namely the innocent children who are forever wounded by the unfaithfulness of either the husband or the wife. The human race is made up of families, and each family is God’s little society. All these little societies provide stability and health to the larger family of mankind. And in a deeper, truer, more mysterious way, the family, living in loving faithfulness, reflects the image of the Godhead, who lives in utter unity within the mutuality of the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In Genesis 1 and 2, when God created mankind and instituted marriage, over and over he spoke of his image being reflected in the best possible light among the rest of creation by the loving, faithful relationship of Adam and Eve. More than you and I can possibly realize, God is concerned about your marriage and mine. So serious was he that violation of the marriage covenant through unfaithfulness brought capital punishment. And even though he provided other means for unhappy couples to dissolve their covenant, it grieved his heart. And while we no longer serve up the death penalty to adulterers—and by Jesus’ re-definition of adultery in the heart, aren’t we all glad that capital punishment is off the table—God cares just as much today about the health of the human family as he did in Numbers 5. Our cultural tolerance of boundary-less sex, easy divorce and the acceptance of the single-parent home milieu means that we will have a lot to answer for on the Day of Judgement.

At this point I could list endless research on the destructiveness to men and women, and especially the life-long harm to the most vulnerable, our children, that results from our cavalier attitude toward the sanctity of marriage, but I think you get the picture. What is God deadly serious about? Your marriage, that’s what!

Whether you are married, not yet married, or will be single for life, as a Christ-follower, let us take up the cause of the sanctity of marriage. Let us, first of all, live out God’s ideal in our own homes. Then, let us fearlessly take a stand against the demon-inspired attack in its various forms on God’s ideal of covenantal marriage. Perhaps if enough of us would model the right thing and call out the wrong thing, we could save a few of these “little societies” from destruction.

Going Deeper With God: Pray daily for your marriage, and for the marriages of your loved ones, and for the marriages in your church. Pray a hedge of protection around them. It may not seem like you are doing much, but your prayer will be heard by the God who answers prayer.

What God’s Moving Day Teaches Us

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

In the work of God’s Kingdom, the call to serve and bear burdens is not a problem, it is a privilege. In God’s final analysis of you, it won’t be how much you gained, but how much you gave; not if you have done great things, but if you have done things with great love. That is what truly honors the Lord of the Kingdom.

Moving Day

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 4:5-6, 49

When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it. Then they shall put on it a covering of goatskin and spread on top of that a cloth of blue, and shall put it in poles. …According to the commandment of the LORD through Moses they were listed, each [of the clans of the Levites] with their task of serving or bearing burdens.

As we have come to expect from Leviticus and Numbers, God provided exacting, and from our modern, sophisticated perspective, strange details for everything from A to Z in the life of the Israelite community. They were a newly formed nation that had no previous track record for civil society. Moreover, they were not just any old nation, they were to be a people called to be the Lord’s own distinct people. And much of what God instructed them in was how to worship him in holiness. Even in that, details were given clear down to how the tabernacle was to be moved when the Israelites broke camp and moved on to the next location in their journey toward the Promised Land.

As we have said many times before in these intriguing chapters of ancient Israelite history, but what relevance do that have for the modern day people of God—followers of Jesus Christ? Let me suggest three practical lessons that this Old Testament moving day teaches us:

First, no one is greater than the next in the Kingdom of God, only God is great. I was struck by the fact that it was only Aaron and his sons who were allowed to go into the Holy of Holies on moving day to handle the ark of the covenant and the other holy instruments. Not even Moses, the greatest leader of all time, the man who met with God face-to-face, the guy who parted the Red Sea and brought down the Ten Commandments from the mountain, was allowed to go into the most sacred place on earth to handle the sacred things. Now who was greater, Moses or Aaron? From a human evaluation, Moses gets top billing. But what a powerful reminder that in God’s world, he only is glorious, and we who serve him, whatever our role, live and work for his glory alone. All are given a role to play, and greatness comes by playing that role, whatever it may be, big or small, very public or quite private, when we do it worshipfully and with great love.

Second, in God’s Kingdom, we are all given sacred tasks to carry out, and God expects us to run in our lanes. The Kingdom is not just an idea, it is a reality. It is not just theology, it is people living in community. And as such, it must function as God’s society, peaceful and productive. The proper and efficient functioning of the Kingdom is possible only through the gifts of the Spirit as they are faithfully administered through the lives of believers. In Numbers 4, for example, the sons of Aaron and the Levites broke down, packed up and carried the tabernacle of the Lord’s presence on moving day. And each clan had a very specific job to do. Likewise, in the body of Christ, each has a role to play, and there are no roles more important than the other. (See 1 Corinthians 12:14-26). Call it what you will, the Kingdom, the church, the body of Christ, God has given each of us very important roles to fill to move his people forward, and we must run in our lanes for that journey to be fruitful and fulfilling to all, and pleasing to the Lord. And, by the way, God takes this business of running in our lanes very seriously. If you don’t believe me, just read Numbers 4:15-20.

Third, the ministry we are each called to, whether great or small, exciting or tedious by human evaluation, is a privilege, not a problem. We tend to think of tasks that we are responsible for as burdens to carry. We typically recoil at the idea of serving, conjuring up images of menial work and demeaning servitude. If we do, we have it all wrong. The Lord called the sacred duties of breaking down, packing up, and carrying forth the tabernacle as “serving” and “bearing burdens.” Obviously, God didn’t think of serving and bearing burdens in the pejorative. Whatever job he gives to a person to do is a privilege, and when carried out in the right way with the right attitude, it promotes the health and welfare of his people. And when his people are living in a healthy and efficient relationship with one another and with the Missio Dei, God is glorified.

What does God’s moving day teach you? Simply this: you are important, you are needed, whatever God called you to do is a privilege, not a problem, and it is your opportunity to participate in the greatest, most rewarding activity in all creation—glorifying God.

Wow! How blessed you are.

Going Deeper With God: The Apostle Paul taught in Colossians 3:15 that in whatever we are doing, we are to do it as unto the Lord, for truly, it is him we are serving. Is that your attitude toward what you have been tasked to do? If not, first, a bit of repentance is in order, then some reorientation of your perspective toward serving and burden bearing will do you a world of good.

The Best Part of Me

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

The tithe—the first fruits, the first part, the firstborn, your first love—is what God wants from us. Not just in the legalistic sense, that is, as prescribed in Biblical law, but as the loving and organic response of our lives. That is the worship God not only demands as our Creator and Ruler, but deserves as our loving Heavenly Father.

Best Part

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 3:40-41

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now count all the firstborn sons in Israel who are one month old or older, and make a list of their names. The Levites must be reserved for me as substitutes for the firstborn sons of Israel; I am the Lord. And the Levites’ livestock must be reserved for me as substitutes for the firstborn livestock of the whole nation of Israel.”

The tithe—the first fruits, the first part, the firstborn, your first love—is what God wants from you and me. Not just in the legalistic sense, that is, as prescribed in Biblical law, but as the loving and organic response of our life. That is our worship. God wants us to recognize him, honor him and obey him through the enthusiastic offering of our tithe—and I am not talking just about money, but the first and best part of us, whatever that is. God not only demands it—and why shouldn’t he, he created us, chose us and has called us into mission for him—but God deserves it for those very same reasons.

To help us remember that we owe him the best part, and to give us a sacred process for acknowledging as much, God established the dedication of the firstborn as that tithe at the time of the proto-Passover in Exodus 13:2-3, 11-12, 14,

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Dedicate to me every firstborn among the Israelites. The first offspring to be born, of both humans and animals, belongs to me.” So Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever—the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. Today the Lord has brought you out by the power of his mighty hand. …This is what you must do when the Lord fulfills the promise he swore to you and to your ancestors. When he gives you the land where the Canaanites now live, you must present all firstborn sons and firstborn male animals to the Lord, for they belong to him. …And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’ Then you will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery.’”

The firstborn of the families of the Exodus belonged to the Lord to remind the entire nation that God had miraculously saved them from slavery. He brought them out of Egypt not only as a demonstration of his mighty power, which they were to never forget, but he had displayed that power to save them because he loved them and had sovereignly chose them to be he very own people, a nation set apart as his own. And they were to never forget that as well.

The firstborn of the Israelites’ animals were to be offered as a sacrifice to the Lord, but the firstborn sons of the Israelites were not to be killed, they were to be redeemed by the dedication of the Levites to the Lord’s service in tabernacle worship as a sacred substitute. Here in Numbers 3, two years into their journey from Egypt to Canaan, this substitution was worshipfully and ceremonially made: the Levites for the firstborn of the other eleven tribes.

So what does that mean for you today? Most importantly, reading this account is to remind you of the greatest substitution of all: the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus, who was offered up as a sacrifice to God for your sins. You deserved death because of your sins—we all did; but Jesus died on the cross in our place. He was our substitute. Furthermore, the substitution of the Levites for the firstborn of the Israelites not only foreshadowed God’s mighty power displayed at the cross, it foreshadowed the reason he redeemed you from your enslavement to sin: because he loved you immeasurably and had sovereignly chose you to be his very own, part of a nation set apart as his own holy people.

That is why God still calls us to make an offering of the best of us—the first fruits, the first part, our first love—as a way to recognize that he substituted Jesus as an offering for us. That’s called the tithe, which is to be paid not just in a legal sense, although there are perfectly good reasons to observe that through a formal process, but as the loving and organic response of our life. God wants us to recognize him, honor him and obey him through the enthusiastic offering of the first and best part of you and me, whatever that is.

God not only demands the best part—and why shouldn’t he, he created you, chose you and has called you into mission for him—but God deserves it for those very same reasons.

Going Deeper With God: Find a creative way to offer your tithe this week—the first part of your income, the best part of something you have produced, the first tenth of your time, talent and energy.

Order Out Of Chaos

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

The first time we meet God is in Genesis 1, where his Spirit hovered over the chaotic mess from which he brought forth the orderliness and beauty of creation. God is not intimidated by chaos. In fact, confusion, bedlam, anarchy and pandemonium—including yours—are the raw materials from which God fashions his best work.

Order-Chaos

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 2:1-4

Then the Lord gave these instructions to Moses and Aaron: “When the Israelites set up camp, each tribe will be assigned its own area. The tribal divisions will camp beneath their family banners on all four sides of the Tabernacle, but at some distance from it.”

Is your life out of control? Is you world falling apart? Are you sinking in a sea of chaos—emotionally, relationally, financially or spiritually? Feel like you can’t hold it together any longer? No problem! God specializes in bringing order out of chaos. Colossians 1:15-17 tells us,

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.

Did you catch that? He holds all creation together. “All” includes you—your emotions, your relationships, your finances, your spiritual concerns, whatever… You don’t have to hold it all together; God is doing that for you.

The fact is, the first time we meet God is in Genesis 1, and his Spirit is hovering over the chaotic mess out of which he brought forth the orderliness and beauty of creation. God is not intimidated by chaos. In fact, confusion, bedlam, anarchy and pandemonium are the raw materials from which God fashions his best work.

When you read Numbers 2 as God lays out the “seating plan” for the brand new nation called Israel, you might wonder what, if any, devotional value is present in this chapter. And I would agree, since my task today is to write an inspirational lesson from theses verses, that this is a bit of a stretch. But one of the truths that we do find here is that God loves order. And while he isn’t intimidated by chaos, he is not content to leave it there. He brings process, intentionality, production and even beauty out of it. As the twelve tribes of Israel are specifically assigned where to set up camp, you see a pretty impressive and purposeful design in God’s plan. Actually, given the size of the nation, and thus the size and complexity of the organizational task, God is a pretty impressive event organizer.

God wants to organize your life, too. He is not afraid of your chaos. The fact that you don’t know what to do doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a plan. He does. And as you submit your chaos to him in utter dependence, as you surrender your fears and frustrations to him in trust, he will bring his creative powers to bear to bring purpose into your situation while at the same time, out of it, bring glory unto himself.

Be encouraged! The Apostle Paul profoundly declared, “For you are God’s masterpiece. He has created you anew in Christ Jesus, so you can do the good things he planned long ago for you to do.” No matter what your situation looks like and not matter how your emotions are evaluating it, you are God’s work of art, his poem, and you are quite a piece of work. God started something incredible in you when he saved you, and even though your growth in salvation may not be along a straight and continuous line, he has guaranteed to “continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

So in review, here is the truth that we can squeeze out of Numbers 2: God brings order out of chaos. His order is purposeful. And his purpose is to use you to bring glory to himself. So don’t be overwhelmed by your chaotic world right now, the Master Builder is fixing to create quite a work of art!

Going Deeper With God: Verbalize your to chaos to the Lord. Surrender your fears to him. Thank him in advance for the work of art that he will bring from it.

Beware of the God

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God is anything but tame, and following him is anything but safe! It is a risky adventure, this journey of faith. Of course, total surrender to God will lead to incomparable success, significance and satisfaction, both in this life and in the one to come, yet there is a dimension to God that the Israelites came to understand through their wilderness experience that we don’t fully understand in our day: God’s faithful love cannot be separated from his fierce holiness.

Beware of God

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 1:53

The Levites will camp around the Tabernacle of the Covenant to protect the community of Israel from the Lord’s anger. The Levites are responsible to stand guard around the Tabernacle.

God is anything but tame, and following him is anything but safe! Of course, following him in ruthless faith and loving obedience brings incomparable success, significance and satisfaction, both in this life and in the one to come. Total surrender to God will lead us to the pearl of great price—no doubt about it. Yet there is a dimension to God that the Israelites came to understand through their wilderness experience that we don’t fully understand in our experience: God’s faithful love cannot be separated from his fierce holiness.

Dorothy Sayers, a brilliant writer and Christian thinker, mournfully remarked of our dangerous tendency to downgrade the fierceness of God:

The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore—on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. To those who knew him, however, he in no way suggests a milk-and-water person; they objected to him as a dangerous firebrand. True, he was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers, and humble before heaven; but he insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites. He referred to King Herod as “that fox”; he went to parties in disreputable company and was looked upon as a “gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners”; he assaulted indignant tradesmen and threw them and their belongings out of the temple; he drove a coach-and-horses through a number of sacrosanct and hoary regulations; he cured diseases by any means that came handy with a shocking casualness in the matter of other people’s pigs and property; he showed no proper deference for wealth or social position; when confronted with neat dialectical traps, he displayed a paradoxical humor that affronted serious-minded people, and he retorted by asking disagreeably searching questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb.”

Neither God the Father nor God the Son nor God the Holy Spirit can be de-clawed, tamed or even contained! No matter how people may try, he is still fierce in holiness, he is still the Lion of Judah, he is still the Spirit who convicts of judgment and calls to repentance.

As the Israelites broke camp in the wilderness to follow their leader Moses to the land of promise, what God had been instructing them about at the foot of Mt. Sinai now needed to be lived out in their daily journey of faith. They needed to be reminded that God’s fierce holiness was not just a theology; it was a reality. That is why the tents of the Levites, the keepers of the Presence of the Lord, were to be arranged in a way that encircled the tabernacle, the house of his holy presence, as a protective hedge.

But protection from what? The fierce holiness of the Lord is what. They had been sternly warned that treating the holy as common would lead to an outbreak of God’s wrath in the camp, so this camping arrangement was actually a measure of God’s preserving grace. The enduring lesson here is that the presence of God is both blessing and cursing in the camp of God’s people. It is a blessing for those who treat his holiness with a sense of awe; it is a cursing for those who do not cultivate respect for his glorious presence.

The last verse of this opening chapter, Numbers 1:54, says that in light of the gracious reminder provided in this camping arrangement, “the Israelites did everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses.” They obeyed—at least from the start. But in the later chapters, their initial respect for the Lord’s fierce presence turned to apathy, and they failed to maintain a sense of the utter holiness of God. And in Old Testament story after Old Testament story, we are reminded that the blessing of his presence can turn to a curse when his people disregard his fierce holiness.

Is there any positive take-away from this sobering devotional? Yes! God wants us to live in holy fear—fear that comes from a mature knowledge of God’s fierce holiness and a healthy respect for his right to lovingly rule our lives. This fear of the Lord is healthy, whether conscious or subconscious, because it promotes an attitude of belief in, love for and complete trust of God. It is that kind of fear that is the best motive for living in awareness of his fierce holiness, and it is the surest path to the blessings God longs to shower upon us.

So beware of the God, it will lead to unimaginable favor on the risky adventure of following after him!

Going Deeper With God: Do you reverence God in holy fear, or have you tried to “declaw” your Lion of Judah? If you are guilty of trying to tame the Lord, then bow before him now and offer him a repentant heart.

Paying What you Owe?

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Tithing is simply paying, not giving—you can’t give what you owe, you pay it—the first portion of the increase of your income back to the One who gave it to you as your worshipful recognition of his ownership and rulership of all that is you. Tithing is an unleashing of the storehouse of heavenly treasure laid up for your pleasure—not pleasure in the sense of fleshly lusts, but in the sense of the enjoyment that comes from using your time, talent and treasure for the glory of God.

Pay What You Owe

Going Deep // Focus: Leviticus 27:26-28

You may not dedicate a firstborn animal to the Lord, for the firstborn of your cattle, sheep, and goats already belong to him. However, you may buy back the firstborn of a ceremonially unclean animal by paying the priest’s assessment of its worth, plus 20 percent. If you do not buy it back, the priest will sell it at its assessed value.

You don’t give what you owe—you pay it!

A lot of people these days will push back on any teaching on tithing as something that was under the law, not grace; as legalistic obedience and not loving surrender. There are preachers who never preach on it (often as a reaction to preachers who have over-preached on it), churches that don’t receive public offerings (you surreptitiously drop it into a box on the way out of church) and people who abandon the church as soon as the subject of money comes up.

But if the spirit of the law is still in play—in other words, if the Old Testament represents the values that God wants his people to live out—then what is the role of giving in the life of the believer today? Do we owe God anything—not just spiritually, but materially. It is still appropriate to honor God, recognize his rightful ownership of everything we have anyway, and sanctify our wealth by worshipfully giving it to God in our offerings? I think so. And I would offer God’s inexplicable blessings in my life as Exhibit A that is pays to tithe.

That’s right—it pays to tithe. Tithing is simply paying, not giving—you can’t give what you owe, you pay it—the first portion of the increase of your income back to the One who gave it to you as worshipful recognition of his ownership and rulership of your life.

But here’s the deal: when you pay your bill, worshipfully speaking, it is not really a debit to your account. No, it is an investment of God’s money in an eternal stock in a venture owned and operated by God that the Lord himself guarantees will yield impossible, eternal, ever-increasing return on investment. Tithing is an untying of God’s hands to bless you. Tithing is an unleashing of the storehouse of heavenly treasure laid up for your pleasure—not pleasure in the sense of fleshly lusts, but in the sense of the enjoyment that comes from using your time, talent and treasure for the glory of God. When you tithe and become generous in your giving to the things of God, you become a conduit: the more you give, the more God gives you to give, so that when you give, God gives you more. Crazy, but it’s the economy of the Kingdom.

Leviticus 27 reminds us that God demands the tithe. It is rightfully his and you owe it, so he expects you to pay it. But rather than being legalistic and mean-spirited, it is actually one of the most loving invitations you will find in the Bible. For when you come into loving obedience in your financial stewardship, God opens the floodgates of blessings upon your life:

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.  “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (Malachi 3:10-12)

Chances are some of you will just blow this off and keep hanging on to “your” money. (Actually, it’s God’s money; not my words but his.) Some of you will get mad at me and accuse me of Old Testament legalism, or being judgmental. Some of you will be fearful of trying this; you’ve got a mentality that thinks you can’t afford to tithe. (Actually, you can’t afford not to tithe.)

Listen, if you don’t believe me, then test God in this. That is actually what he invites you to do: “Try it! Put me to the test!” (Malachi 3:10) That is the only place that I know of in Scripture where we are given permission to test God. Normally that is not a good thing, but in this case, God himself begs you to let him prove his promise to you. So give God a shot.

Do it for your own good. Truly, not only should you pay God what you owe him, but it really does pay to tithe.

Going Deeper With God: Give it a shot: offer your tithe to the Lord this week. And if you already do, give a generous gift to a missional ministry. Then sit back and watch what God does with in, both in the minister you’ve blessed and in your own life.