Why Tithe? – Part Three (Deut 26)

For the start of our year, we’re spending three days looking at the question Why Tithe? in light of Deuteronomy 26. On Wednesday we made three false starts that we thought we could find in the text:

  • we give to get rich/blessed
  • we give because God needs our money
  • we give to make God happy

Then yesterday we read the whole chapter in context, and saw that giving to God was intended to be an expression of joyful gratitude for what God has already done for us. (For Israel, in bringing them into the land; for us, in bringing us into union with Christ.) So what’s left to talk about?

Maybe we can redeem those three false starts. Because, as we said at the end of Wednesday’s post, they’re not entirely wrong. Each of them is not a reason to give – but to some extent, each is a result of giving to God out of gratitude.

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Why Tithe? – Part Two (Deut 26)

To kick off the year, we’re spending three days looking at the question Why Tithe? in light of Deuteronomy 26. Yesterday we made three false starts that we thought we could find in the text:

  1. We give so that God will make us rich – which flies in the face of Jesus’ call to give up material possessions, take up our cross, and follow him… not to mention the experience of millions of faithful believers around the world who live in poverty.
  2. We give because God needs our money – which, despite cash-strapped churches struggling to support gospel workers and social programmes, is quite silly in light of the fact that God created the world and has access to far more resources than we could even imagine.
  3. We give to please God – which is heading in the right direction, but neglects the fact that we can’t please God by our works any more than Christ has already pleased the Father on our behalf.

But these three popular misunderstandings of why we tithe are all missing something. They’re missing the reason for tithing God gave Israel back at the start of the chapter – which we ignored yesterday, because we weren’t reading in context. Let’s see if we can pick up that reason, starting from verse 1:

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Why Tithe? – Part One (Deut 26)

In Australia, the year began today.

If you’re from the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll think this is weird – 2016 has been underway for quite some time. But for us, December 25 ushers in the start of our long summer holidays. And January 26, the Australia Day public holiday, marks its end. School goes back this week, horrendous traffic returns to our roads, as we jump back on the treadmill of life.

So, too, Coffee with the King throws out the reheated summer dregs, and puts on a fresh, new pot. And what better way to start the year proper than to talk about money. About tithing. About how it is we’re going to use our financial resources this coming year in light of what God has to say on the matter. Over the next three days, we’ll be asking the question: why tithe? And we’ll be looking for the answers in Deuteronomy chapter 26.

You’ll need to read Deuteronomy 26 first, and then continue on below.

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Summer series:

During the summer, we’re doing what any good TV network does and playing mostly reruns. If you joined Coffee with the King part-way through 2015, this will give you the opportunity to catch up on some previous series. Either search the archives, or binge-read through previous notes on Matthew’s Gospel in chronological order, which will be freshly re-posted each day.

In last Wednesday’s post, we looked at Jesus’ confronting command, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48). Is Jesus calling us to do the impossible? And what did he mean by saying that he’d come to “fulfill” the law (5:17)?

So far this week, we’ve seen how Jesus calls us to go beyond the letter of some Old Testament laws and obey the spirit behind it. You may have noticed that lots of questions were raised, most of which I didn’t even address. In fact, I’ve deliberately avoided getting involved in the more complex areas of applying these calls to truthfulness, non-retaliation, and love for enemies. Why?

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Summer series: Love for enemies (Matt 5:43-47)

During the summer, we’re doing what any good TV network does and playing mostly reruns. If you joined Coffee with the King part-way through 2015, this will give you the opportunity to catch up on some previous series. Either search the archives, or binge-read through previous notes on Matthew’s Gospel in chronological order, which will be freshly re-posted each day.

In last Wednesday’s post, we looked at Jesus’ confronting command, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48). Is Jesus calling us to do the impossible? And what did he mean by saying that he’d come to “fulfill” the law (5:17)?

So far, we’ve seen how Jesus calls us to go beyond the letter of some Old Testament laws and obey the spirit behind it. Yesterday, we saw that the OT law of “an eye for an eye” was intended to limit the scale of revenge. Jesus calls his followers to go further and forego revenge altogether. Today we look at a related idea: love for enemies.

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Summer series: Retaliation (Matt 5:38-42)

During the summer, we’re doing what any good TV network does and playing mostly reruns. If you joined Coffee with the King part-way through 2015, this will give you the opportunity to catch up on some previous series. Either search the archives, or binge-read through previous notes on Matthew’s Gospel in chronological order, which will be freshly re-posted each day.

In Wednesday’s post, we looked at Jesus’ confronting command, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48). Is Jesus calling us to do the impossible? And what did he mean by saying that he’d come to “fulfill” the law (5:17)?

So far, we’ve seen how Jesus calls us to go beyond the letter of some Old Testament laws and obey the spirit behind it. Yesterday, we saw that avoiding oaths (and playing games with our words) is merely the outworking of an inner commitment to complete truthfulness. Today we look at retaliation.

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Summer series: Truthfulness (Matt 5:33-37)

During the summer, we’re doing what any good TV network does and playing mostly reruns. If you joined Coffee with the King part-way through 2015, this will give you the opportunity to catch up on some previous series. Either search the archives, or binge-read through previous notes on Matthew’s Gospel in chronological order, which will be freshly re-posted each day.

In yesterday’s post, we looked at Jesus’ confronting command, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48). Is Jesus calling us to do the impossible? And what did he mean by saying that he’d come to “fulfill” the law (5:17)?

Hopefully, when you read 5:21-32 you started to see a pattern. Each time Jesus quotes an Old Testament commandment and, in a sense, “raises the bar.” The law says “You shall not murder.” But Jesus says don’t even indulge in the attitudes that lead to murder: hatred and anger. He looks beyond the letter of the law, and brings out the intent of the law. Murder is simply the (extreme) outward expression of hatred and anger. So to obey the spirit of the law, rather than just the letter, Jesus calls those in the kingdom to regulate not just their outward behaviour, but their inward thoughts and emotions.

Similarly, Jesus goes beyond the outward action of “You shall not commit adultery” and tells those who would follow him not even to look lustfully. And he gives a rather graphic description of the lengths one should go to, in order to avoid such lustful looks. Jesus is exaggerating to show the seriousness of it, because in reality it’s not the eyes or hands (though they are involved) but the mind that sins.

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Summer series: Be perfect? (Matt 5:17-48)

During the summer, we’re doing what any good TV network does and playing mostly reruns. If you joined Coffee with the King part-way through 2015, this will give you the opportunity to catch up on some previous series. Either search the archives, or binge-read through previous notes on Matthew’s Gospel in chronological order, which will be freshly re-posted each day.

 

Continuing in our series in The Sermon on the Mount, for the next 5 days we look at Matt 5:17-48. Today is a bit of an aerial overview of this section as we try to figure out what it’s all about. Let’s look at the “bookends” of this passage now. It starts with this rather confronting statement:

5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (18) For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (19) Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (20) For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Surpasses that of the Pharisees? They were pretty scrupulous about obeying the law, and here, Jesus is saying that our righteousness needs to exceed theirs! More than that: even the tiniest part of the law remains for those who wish to belong to the kingdom.

But it gets worse.

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