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Stewardship In God's Kingdom - Part 2

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    Tettei Shahday-Annang

Even if tithing is not mentioned anywhere in the New Testament, I see it as a privilege and honour to give my best to God. I don't consider it a law. If God told the people of old to give Him the tenth of their income, then God delights in that and I'm going to give it. After all, how best can I give to God? Listen, we cannot outgive God. The Word tells us: "Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over" (Proverbs 3:9-10, MSG). The Webster's dictionary defines "burst": "to break open, apart, or into pieces usually from impact or from pressure from within." Pressure from the inside forces the blessings to break out. Hallelujah!

Oh I get a clue from Ecclesiastes 11:3: "If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth..." No one goes to the clouds to force the rains to come down; it knows when to fall by itself. As the clouds heap and heap in the skies, they end up emptying themselves upon the earth. So are our blessing dear brethren in Christ. Our offerings exert a form of pressure from within that forces a breakout of our blessings. It doesn't matter how long it takes, for we know our reward is sure. We look not at the things which are seen (2 Corinthians 4:18); stay calm and keep partnering with God through your giving and you'll receive a great reward from the King of kings himself. Don't lose heart! Some of us think God doesn't have enough so we must give to him.

"The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them" (Psalm 24:1; 89:11). That's why He said, "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof" (Psalm 50:12). It's clear that whatever we have belongs to God. Have you noticed that the things we enjoy in this life came from here? We didn't manufacture anything from anywhere; it's through the creation of God that we have what we have. So we don't give to God because He's in need; we give to be blessed (Acts 20:35). Giving is a spiritual principle; it brings more blessing to the giver than to the recipient. When we give freely to God, we receive freely from Him.

We are told to give and it will be given back to us in full and overflowing measure (Luke 6:38). Scripture says, "It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself" (Proverbs 11:24-25, TLB). God promises that we will be blessed over and over above that which we give and also according to the measure that we use to give. But if we hold back from giving with a stingy heart, we hinder God from blessing our lives. Don't give under pressure or compulsion; give joyfully as an expression of thanks to God from the heart. Don't see it as a legalistic obligation. The value of our money is not determined by how much we give, but how we give.

God tells us to put Him to test: "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do," says the Lord Almighty, "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! Let me prove it to you!"" (Malachi 3:10, NLT). In the Message Bible, it translates it as: "...bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my temple. Test me in this and see if I don't open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams." I believe this scripture explains itself. In the verse 11, God promises that He will enlarge our crops, for He will guard them from insects and plagues. In other words, our businesses with its finances will be protected from the evil one.

Learn to be faithful in giving to God. We are to give to the storehouses (local churches) where we are fed with God's Word and nurtured spiritually. If you're not currently giving to your church, I challenge you to start by making a commitment. If a tenth seems too overwhelming, consider making it a goal. Be determined to give God your best and you'll be glad you did; don't take it for granted. God's interested in blessing you; locate yourself properly for Him to channel His resources through you. One time Jesus was in the temple and the Bible records that: "Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins - a measly two cents.

Jesus called his disciples over and said, "The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford - she gave her all"" (Mark 12:41-44, MSG). God values our offering differently than men do. Men will go for those that give much, but God looks into the core of our hearts. In God's eyes, the value of an offering is not determined by the amount it is given. The woman paid a costly sacrifice! Jesus didn't say she put in more than any of the others, but she put in more than all the others put together though her gift was by far the smallest. The value of a gift is not about the amount, but by the spirit in which it is given. A gift given grudgingly or for recognition loses its value.

When you give, remember - no matter how small or large your income, your tithe is pleasing to God when it is given out of gratitude and a spirit of generosity. Sometimes we mistakenly think we've got to make a fat income before we tithe but it's not right. Give what you have; God has no problem with it. Our attitude to giving is what is most important to God. The NIV states that the rich threw in their offering, which indicated that they gave carelessly and anyhow with no thought! Jesus is interested in how we give than in how much we give. Cain and Abel both offered sacrifices to God but He delighted in Abel's sacrifice and rejected that of Cain. God evaluates our offerings. He watches what and how we give. He only doesn't care about the quality of our gifts, but also the manner in which we offer him. Rather than giving to God out of a heart of thankfulness and worship, Cain may have presented his offering with evil or selfish intentions. Maybe he had hoped to receive some special recognition.

There is also the FIRST FRUIT OFFERING and I believe it's also important. It's just like the tithe but this one deals with the whole of your income. I know this might raise a number of issues but there's nothing wrong with it. In this type of offering, every year, a Christian may decide to give all of his first income. He may also choose to give the whole of the first income he receives from every new job he lands. This offering may come in any month of the year in which the believer gets a new job. In so doing, he trusts God to take care of his work and give him the best in the New Year or newly found job. And surely, God will never fail if you put Him to test. When you give God your first fruits, no one can go after your money - God is going to go after him.

The SEED OFFERING is another type of offering. When there's a prophecy or one is looking forward to get something or deal with a situation by faith, he may give what is called a seed offering. A word from the Lord may come that deals specifically to a believer's situation, and by faith, he may choose to give such an offering, believing that he would receive what he desires. When someone gives a testimony that's in line with what one desires, he may also give this type of offering. Remember God never fails us; not one of His Word has failed (Joshua 23:14; 1 Kings 8:56). If something is bothering you, give this type of offering and expect a good result; it is a breakthrough offering - in your health, finances, marriage, academics etc. There was a lady in church whose dad got sick. Her dad got swollen to the point that she couldn't look at him in the face.

When she received money from her relatives to take her dad to the hospital, she gave out the money as seed offering, expecting her dad to heal miraculously. She was called several times on phone but she was in church praying over her seed. When she got home, she realised her swollen dad was completely whole. Nothing showed he had been sick. The first smartphone I purchased got stolen. When I got to church the following day, I gave a seed offering for it; I wanted to get it at all cost. Surprisingly, the thief called my dad two days after and we went for the phone. I put my faith to work by giving that way. You see, faith works! No wonder Jesus said nothing shall be impossible unto you (Matthew 17:20; Mark 9:23).

The other type of offering I want to talk about is the FREEWILL OFFERING. It's what you give willingly but you give the seed offering when you need something done. In the Old Testament, we see how the Israelites gave some materials towards the temple and it's furnishings: "And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold: and every man that offered offered an offering of gold unto the Lord" (Exodus 35:22). As you read further, you'll realize they made several freewill offerings. Verse 29 reads: "The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the Lord, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the Lord had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses."

In another instance: "When they arrived at the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, some of the family leaders gave generously toward the rebuilding of God's Temple on its original site, and each leader gave as much as he could. The total of their gifts came to 61,000 gold coins, 6,250 pounds of silver, and 100 robes for the priests." (Ezra 2:68-69, NLT). As the temple reconstruction progressed, everyone contributed freewill offerings according to his or her ability. Some were able to give huge gifts and did so generously. Everyone's effort and cooperation were required, and the people gave as much as they could. Often we limit our giving to ten percent of our income. The Bible, however, emphasizes that we should give from the heart all that we are able (2 Corinthians 8:12; 9:6).

Let the amount of your gift be decided by God's call to give generously, not by the amount of your leftovers. So that means we don't end at tithing, we can help with other freewill offerings. Remember that nothing you give to God goes waste; never! I want us to consider a record of Jesus' story in Luke 19:11-27, which talks about investment. He speaks of a nobleman who was called to a distant empire to be crowned king and return. Before his departure, he called his ten servants and gave them ten pounds of silver. When he returned, he called in the servants to whom he had given the money. He wanted to find out what they had done with the money and what was their profit. The first servant reported a tremendous gain by making ten times as much as the original amount. The next servant also reported a good gain by making five times the original amount.

The third servant brought back only the original amount, saying he hid and kept it safe. The king congratulated the first two servants and rewarded them - he called them trustworthy! He made them governors over ten and five cities respectively, according to the work each one had done. The king called the third servant wicked. He didn't even consider depositing the money in the bank, so that he could at least get some interest. Turning to the other servants standing by, the king ordered the money to be taken from the third servant and given to the one who had much. They complained the first servant had enough already, but the king replied, " those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away" (verse 26, NLT).

That story showed Jesus' followers what they were to do during the time between His departure and His second coming. Because we live in that time period, it applies directly to us. We have been given excellent resources to build and expand God's kingdom. Jesus expects us to use these talents so that they multiply and the Kingdom grows. He asks each of us to account for what we do with His gifts. While awaiting the coming of the Kingdom of God in glory, we must do Christ's work. I earlier on made mention of a transfer of wealth from untrusted believers to trustworthy ones and I think this story sums it up. Give to God because He is perfect, just, and Almighty Creator of the universe, worthy of the best you have to give. Let's also elaborate on the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-31.

As Jesus was starting out a trip, a young rich ruler came running up to Him. Kneeling down before Jesus, he asked: "what do I do in order to inherit eternal life?" Jesus told him to obey the commandments. He replied that he had obeyed all the commandments since he was a child and perhaps he had even kept the Pharisees' loophole-filled version of them. But there was something he lacked. Jesus had genuine love for this man and told him to go and sell everything he had, give the money to the poor and he will have treasure in heaven. Then he should come back and follow Him. "At this, the man's face fell, and he went sadly away because he had many possessions" (verse 22). His countenance fell and was gloomy, and he went away grieved and sorrowing. Jesus looked around and said to His disciples: "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" (verse 23).

The disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again, and said unto them, "Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (verse 24-25). His disciples were astounded once again, wondering who in the world could be saved. Jesus answered them by saying that humanly speaking, it's impossible but with God all things are possible! Peter then began to mention all they had left behind and followed Him. Jesus replied, "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands (property, NLT), for my sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life" (verse 29-30).

People have taken that story to mean that rich people will not go to heaven; but that's not what Jesus said. Money itself is not evil, but the love of it can lead to evil. You will be persecuted as you make God's Kingdom your number one and prosper, and it's not something new to us. Most successful Christians are highly criticized; don't be bothered with that.